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What is the pledge of allegiance?

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Quick Answer

The Pledge of Allegiance is an oath of loyalty to the U.S. flag and the United States of America. Written by Francis Bellamy in 1892, it is formally recited in schools throughout the nation, at the beginning of sessions of Congress and before meetings of many government and private organizations.

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Full Answer

The pledge was originally conceived as a promotion of patriotism for Columbus Day of 1892. It was published in the magazine "The Youth's Companion." President Benjamin Harrison and the U.S. Congress proclaimed that the flag ceremony would be an integral part of the Columbus Day festivities, and the National Education Association arranged its adoption in public schools. In 1923, the wording of "my flag" was changed to "the flag of the United States" so immigrants would understand the loyalty they were pledging. In 1942, Congress passed an act that officially recognized the Pledge of Allegiance. As an anticommunist gesture during the Cold War in 1954, President Dwight Eisenhower encouraged Congress to add the words "under God" to the pledge.

Francis Bellamy originally incorporated a straight-armed salute with the right hand in the direction of the flag as part of the ceremony. However, in the era leading up to World War II, the salute was construed as too similar to Fascist salutes in Germany and Italy. In December 1942, Congress amended the Flag Code, decreeing that the flag should be honored during the pledge with the right hand placed over the heart.

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