Thoughts on the Pledge of Allegiance and Citzenship

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In honor of Independence Day, producer Barrett Golding of the Hearing Voices radio project presents this meditation on the Pledge of Allegiance, and what it means to be an American. We hear a variety of Americans recite the pledge and offer their thoughts on citizenship.

MADELEINE BRAND, host:

This is DAY TO DAY from NPR News. Alex Chadwick is on assignment. I'm Madeleine Brand.

Coming up: What will the world of cycling look like once Lance Armstrong retires? We'll have a report. But first, a radio reprise from producer Barrett Golding. It's an Independence Day treat that first aired on NPR more than a decade ago, still fresh this Fourth of July.

Unidentified Man #1: The Pledge of Allegiance?

Unidentified Woman #1: I pledge allegiance to the United States of America from who we stand--I can't remember any of it.

Unidentified Man #2: ...and to the Republic for which she stands...

Unidentified Man #3: Yeah, man, I had to memorize that. I had to grow up knowing that.

Unidentified Woman #2: Of course, you had to stand with your hand over your heart like little soldiers.

Unidentified Man #4: I spent 10 years in the Green Beret, including Vietnam, and I got to where I'd look up, see an American flag, man, that was a real experience. Still is. Still is.

Unidentified Man #5: As far as it having any meaning or anything to me, it doesn't. None at all.

(Soundbite of music)

Unidentified Woman #3: We're not a melting pot because you cannot take all the cultures that are here in the United States of America and throw 'em into one pot and come out with a quote, unquote, "an American."

Unidentified Man #6: I grew up on a ranch in eastern Oregon, a place called Roseburg.

Unidentified Man #7: I was born in Puerto Rico, small little town called Mayaguez.

Unidentified Woman #4: Atlanta, Georgia.

Unidentified Man #8: Washington, DC.

Unidentified Man #9: I'm with the Mandan-Hidatsa, Fort Berthold Indian Reservation.

Unidentified Woman #5: I'm from the north of England, Yorkshire.

Unidentified Man #10: Four hundred kilometers west of Istanbul.

Unidentified Woman #6: The day I became a citizen I had someone from Nigeria next to me and a girl from Ireland on the other side of me. And we hugged and kissed.

Unidentified Woman #7: I love being an American, African-American.

Unidentified Woman #8: When I came to the United States I was 19 and I think that was already too old to get the right accent.

Unidentified Man #11: I had to leave the country for political reasons.

Unidentified Man #12: If we go back China probably no chance to come out again.

(Soundbite of music)

Unidentified Woman #3: We're not a melting pot, more like a tossed salad and each ingredient in that salad gives the salad flavor.

Unidentified Man #13: Wherever you are, it doesn't matter. You always have one objective, serve the mankind.

Unidentified Woman #9: (Singing) Oh, say can you see by the dawn's early light what so--hums--I don't remember it. Hums--through the dawn's early--you know why? Because now I sing the national Negro anthem. (Singing) Lift every voice and sing till Earth and heaven ring, ring with the harmony...

Unidentified Man #14: ...one nation under God...

Unidentified Man #15: ...indivisible--what does it mean? Indivisible?

(Soundbite of music)

Unidentified Man #16: ...and to the Republic for which it falls...

Unidentified Man #17: ...indivisible with liberty and justice...

Unidentified Man #18: ...for you, for you.

Group of Children: (In unison) 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.

(Soundbite of music)

Unidentified Man #19: What does that mean that we're one nation and we're not divisible?

Unidentified Man #20: Is it just like saying there's one God?

Unidentified Woman #10: That's how I kind of see it, for it's a prayer.

Unidentified Woman #11: And the part that I get disenchanted with is the liberty and justice for all.

Unidentified Man #20: I think it's something we've lived by. We did in World War II. We really believed all that stuff.

Unidentified Woman #11: I pledge allegiance to the flag...

Unidentified Man #21: ...and then under God, yeah...

Unidentified Woman #11: ...and I said and to the Republic for which it stands...

Unidentified Man #21: ...the flag for which it stands stands--yeah, I left that out...

Unidentified Woman #11: ...one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

Unidentified Man #21: That's ...(unintelligible).

Unidentified Woman #11: It's poetic, it's poetic, you know, the end--it has a rhythm, it has a cadence.

Group of Children: (Singing) Pledge allegiance, pledge allegiance, pledge allegiance to the flag, to the flag of the United States of America, America and to the Republic for which it stands.

Unidentified Woman #12: Some child, somewhere is listening to those words and they're thinking about it. Maybe the next senator or president is thinking about it and saying, `Hey, I should make a difference. I should actually make this happen.'

Group of Children: (Singing) ...for all. Indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

Unidentified Man #22: I pledge allegiance to the flag...

Unidentified Woman #13: ...of the United States of America...

Unidentified Man #23: ...and to the Republic...

Unidentified Woman #14: ...for which it stands...

Unidentified Man #24: ...one nation...

Unidentified Woman #25: ...under God...

Unidentified Man #15: ...indivisible...

Unidentified Man #26: ...with liberty...

Unidentified Man #27: ...and justice...

Unidentified Woman #16: ...with liberty...

Unidentified Man #28: ...and justice...

Unidentified Woman #17: ...with liberty and justice for all.

(Soundbite of fireworks display)

Unidentified Man #29: Bang! I love it. Incoming. Man...

BRAND: The pledge by producer Barrett Golding of hearingvoices.com.

More coming up on DAY TO DAY from NPR News.

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