Who remembers this? Every day in elementary school, I had to stand up and face the flag with my hand over my heart and say these words: “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.” I hated it. I didn’t understand the point of repeating these words that meant nothing to me. Then 2016 happened.
In 2016 I saw black people who, in this supposedly enlightened time, were being jailed and even killed without the same consideration given to me. I saw gay married people denied the rights and protections given to straight couples. But I also watched as the tides began to turn. Demonstrations, surprisingly peaceful given the situation, happened across the country. Groups like Black Lives Matter guided our dialogue toward crucial issues like institutionalized racism. I watched as the needle inched its way toward liberty and justice for all. And then there was the Presidential election. I watched in disbelief as the results came in, realizing in shock that the country wasn’t ready for this important and necessary change. I barely slept for a week before deciding I must do something.
Shortly after the election, I went to an “Indivisible” meeting looking for like-minded people—not knowing what I wanted to do, just feeling the need to commune with others. The meeting opened with the Pledge of Allegiance. I reluctantly faced the flag with my hand over my heart, ready once again to mumble those words and move on. But something happened. As we recited the pledge, I understood the words; their meaning and their power. I understood how much I love this country and what it stands for—how I want to ensure everyone has the same reason to love it that I do. I finished the Pledge speaking clearly and confidently with tears in my eyes, ready to do my duty to this great nation. As Martin Luther King Jr. said “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” While I believe this to be true, it is not inevitable. We the people must take responsibility to bend the arc. It won’t be easy. Today there are many opposing forces, each pushing to keep the status quo or even to push our progress back by decades. I’m not a politician, a lawyer, or a political historian. I’m simply a citizen. I don’t know what I can do yet, but I will do my part—whether large or small—to extend equal rights and protections to everyone.