On this day in 1892, the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag of the United States was officially used in public schools for the first time to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the discovery of America by Christopher Columbus.
With the goal of fostering patriotism and unity following the arduous American Civil War, President Benjamin Harrison ordered that the oath of loyalty be read as part of flag raising and salute ceremonies.
Inspired by Edward Bellamy's socialist novel, Looking Backward, the Pledge was written by Edward's cousin, Baptist minister Francis Bellamy and first appeared in the September 1892 issue of Youth's Companion, a then-popular family magazine.
In 1940, following protests by Jehovah witness members, the Supreme Court ruled (in an 8-to-1 decision) that two students in Minersville, Pennsylvania could be expelled for refusing to salute the flag in school.
"National unity is the basis of national security," Justice Felix Frankfurter explained. "The flag is a symbol of our national unity, transcending all internal differences, however large, within the framework of the Constitution."
In 1954, the country sought a stronger National identity. Upon the urging of the Roman Catholic fraternal society's Knights of Columbus, Congress added the words "under God" to the oath.
President Dwight Eisenhower said at the time, "From this day forward, the millions of our school children will daily proclaim in every city and town, every village and every rural school house, the dedication of our nation and our people to the Almighty."
Through history, the Pledge had been a daily ritual and source of inspiration to millions. Despite on-going controversies over those two words "under God," the Pledge of Allegiance remains today:
"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."
Justice is truth in action.