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I Pledge Allegiance...
"I pledge allegiance to the flag, of the United States of America..."
This weekend, I finally came to understand what that pledge truly means. I am 42 years old, and like most Americans, have had those words ingrained in my head since I first set foot in a school. Yet, despite committing the Pledge of Allegiance to memory even before I was old enough to recite my own name and address, I never understood?until now.
"...And to the Republic for which it stands..."
This weekend, with the help of my 1-year-old Grandson, I dug a hole, mixed cement, and planted a flagpole in our yard. We raised the stars and stripes to half-mast, gathered the rest of the family and together, hugging each other with our left hands and covering our hearts with our right, we recited the Pledge of Allegiance for the first time. It was the first time because even though we had all spoken the words countless times before, this was probably the first time we ever said it with true, heartfelt meaning, understanding and pride.
With the flag waving I glanced out at my yard - my land (well, ok, my bank's land) - and spoke to my children about how lucky and proud we were to be Americans. My children understood, far better than I did at their age. While I was too young for Vietnam and just the right age to come this far in life with the idealistic belief that war was something that took place outside our continental borders, my children now know better.
They have seen the truth. They have seen familiar sites, places they have been, destroyed before their eyes. They have feared for themselves, family members and friends. It is both a horrible thing, and a good thing, to learn such truths at a young age. They have learned what it means to be an American, something I, and so many of us, used to take for granted?
"...One nation, under God?indivisible..."
The flags are everywhere, and it is a beautiful thing. In windows, on cars and trucks, on buildings, on gas pumps, on signs, on shirts and hats and ties and ribbon - everywhere! They draw us together and bond us as one - Americans, one nation, indivisible. While deep inside sadness and frustration still prevail, outside the feeling of unity and purpose is inspiring and empowering. As I drive to work I am thrilled to see the red, white and blue reminders on nearly every car on the road.
Yesterday, a station wagon was illegally parked on the shoulder of a major road in my area, the driver selling flags, and T-shirts out of the back. Cars were pulling over and double parking to patronize him, slowing traffic. Then a police car pulled over as well. But instead of issuing a ticket, or asking the unlicensed vendor to move on, the officer purchased a flag, and was smiling as he walked back to his patrol car and affixed the flag to his window?
"...With Liberty and Justice for all."
This is the beginning of a new age for Americans. Seeing the constant acts of heroism by our policemen, firemen, military and volunteers, and hearing the inspiring words of our political and religious leaders, there is no question that Liberty and Justice will triumph. Our challenge, and the challenge of every American, is to never forget the lessons of this tragic event. Never lose the focus and resolve we now share as one unified nation. In business, even before September 11 we faced a difficult and taxing environment, especially hard for technology companies. Now we must stand up to those challenges and work harder, and smarter than ever to succeed. We must succeed to provide for our families, our nation and our flag.
God Bless America.