Pledging Allegiance

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Every morning at West End Elementary School, the students stand, salute and recite the Pledge of Allegiance. It's a ritual that Heather Carstens says reinforces a love for Old Glory, and what the flag represents.

"They need to learn to respect the flag and learn about the flag and what it stands for in the country," said Carstens. "And they need to realize what an honor it is to be an American, and to value their freedoms that they have."

"We try to instill that in our students, particularly our third graders who are the older students in the school, to take some pride in the flag," said reading facilitator, Karen Rhodes.

Before school every morning and after school every afternoon, Henry Pruitt raises and lowers the flag at West End. It's a job he said he doesn't take for granted.

"Because it's fun and I'm volunteering to do it," said Pruitt. "And I represent America."

"He is so conscientious about that job," said Carstens. "It's something that he loves to do, he loves that responsibility. He handles it very carefully and he recognizes that this is an awesome thing to put the flag up every day. And it's important to him."

President Bush said Tuesday that in one sentence, just 31 words, the Pledge allows America to tell the world what it believes, and what it stands for. Extended Web Coverage

The History of the Constitution of the United States

By the mid-1780s, the weaknesses of the Articles of Confederation had become clear to many observers. Among its other defects, the Articles of Confederation gave the Congress no power to tax or to regulate commerce among the states, it lacked both executive and judicial branches, and amending the Articles required unanimity of all the states.

The Federal Convention convened in the State House (Independence Hall) in Philadelphia on May 14, 1787, to revise the Articles of Confederation. Through discussion and debate it became clear by mid-June that, rather than amend the existing Articles, the Convention would draft an entirely new frame of government, one that would meet what they perceived to be the current and future needs of the country.

Among the chief points at issue were:
How much power to allow the central government

  • How many representatives in Congress to allow each state
  • How these representatives should be elected: directly by the people or by the state legislators

    Government under the Constitution remained federal in nature, that is, power was shared between the states and the national government. But where under the Articles the states had been the dominant force, under the Constitution the national government would be supreme.

    One of the key features in the Constitution is that the source of sovereignty, the source of the authority for the document, is the citizenry. "We the People of the United States" ordain and establish the Constitution. This is a direct link to the Declaration of Independence, which declared that governments derive their legitimacy from the consent of the governed.

    Perhaps the most striking feature of the Constitution was how clearly it divided the legislative, executive and judicial branches. While the framers put a great deal of power in the hands of the president, at the same time, a system of checks and balances ensured that no one branch of the government would dominate the others.

    With the ratification of the Constitution, the new government met in the spring of 1789, and Congress immediately adopted and sent to the states a series of proposed amendments. The states ratified 10 of them by 1791, and these have since been known as the Bill of Rights. Other amendments have followed, expanding the democratic nature of American society -- by abolishing slavery, widening the suffrage and making government more responsive to the people, as in the direct election of senators.

    The work of many minds, the Constitution stands as a model of cooperative statesmanship and the art of compromise.

    Read the full transcript of the Constitution of the United States.

    Sources: (U.S. National Archives & Records Administration Exhibit Hall); (U.S. Department of State)