By Nancy Wilde Sartz Roe

President Eisenhower comes to Laconia, New Hampshire in 1955. Our small New England town bursts alive with bustling excitement. Parades, brass bands, and adoring throngs line the streets to welcome and behold him. Eager and excited, my family and I join the throngs. As if in a spotlight, the memory of him waving from the cavalcade to the crowds radiates brilliant clarity. In those light-filled moments, the sight of the president imprints me deeply, and feelings of awe, reverence, joy, pride, and safety wash over me.

For our dear “Ike” later spoke these words, “To be true to one’s own freedom is, in essence, to honor and respect the freedom of all others.” And, “A people that values its privileges above its principles soon loses both.”

As a small person, I know not any of this. But beyond words, luminous and sure—inspiring depth, breadth, and height from its very core—the essence of patriotism radiates the untarnished, unsullied, and intuitive. Does it not offer a place of love for fellow, joy, and peace? It did then for four-year-old me.

When in the first grade, we pledge allegiance to the flag at the beginning of each school day. Solemn joyful reverence lights up the air as my small classmates and I rise to our feet, put our hands on our hearts and gaze at the American flag, elegantly draped with its gold braided tassel on the polished wooden stand at the front of our classroom. We then rhythmically recite the words in soft hushed tones.

“I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

Deeply moved, I find I choke-up at the end. Though the under-God part puzzles me. I don’t quite know what to think about it. But the weight, the hush, the solemnity of the words, “indivisible, with liberty and justice for all,” carry with them a sacred charge, a joyful promise, like wings ascending.

 

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