It was on this date in 1945 that Congress recognized the Pledge of Allegiance and urged its recitation in American schools.
Originally written by Francis Bellamy - a Baptist minister and Christian Socialist - in 1892, it was published in the Youth's Companion, a family oriented magazine that had the largest circulation of the time, around 500,000.
Evidently James B. Upham, the nephew of the magazine's owner, who was working in the premium department, had (in 1891) gotten this idea of selling American flags to schools as a premium to solicit subscriptions.
To further promote this idea, Bellamy was hired to work with Upham, and plans were made to include the newly-composed Pledge and salute in flag raising ceremonies across the country for Columbus Day. Bellamy spoke to a national meeting of school superintendents, and they liked the idea so much that they formed a committee, naming him as chairman.
When first published in September 1892, the Pledge read as follows:
"I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands; one Nation indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for all."
The original salute, described in detail by Bellamy, was changed from an extended arm during World War II to hand over heart.
[I would have been in the 1st grade in 1943 and participating in the Pledge, but I don't remember specifically doing so. I guess it was just such a natural thing to do then that it doesn't jump out at me from my memory banks. I don't remember ever doing an extended arm salute! It was always hand over heart.]
A few changes have been made to the original Pledge. The word 'to' was added in October that same year; 'my Flag' was changed to 'the Flag of the United States' in 1923; and 'of America' and the words 'under God' were added in 1924 and 1954, respectively. There's a neat chart available here of official versions of the Pledge with changes noted in bold italics.
The only change that Bellamy would have approved of was the addition of the word 'to'. He worked very hard on the initial Pledge, and every word had been carefully selected. He'd wanted to include the word 'equality', but knew that it would never be accepted because women and African Americans were not considered equals. In fact, he later stopped attending church altogether because of the racial bigotry he found there.
I do not actually know whether or not the Pledge of Allegiance is still being recited to begin every class day. I tend to doubt it. When I was teaching in the public schools in the 50's, 60's, and 70's, it was. Now? I don't know.
It's a shame, in my opinion, that God and country seem to be coming more and more under attack. As a person of Christian faith, I am bothered by this. I am old-fashioned enough to think that one should stand to show respect, that doors should be held open, and that heads should be bowed in prayer.
I am proud to be an American. I feel privileged to stand and recite the Pledge of Allegiance with hand over my heart as a sign of faith and sincerity.