The words American children have learned for generations declaring love for their country are no longer good enough for the San Francisco school board.
Board President Stevon Cook on Tuesday scrapped the usual recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance and instead offered a quote he said came form poet Maya Angelou, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
Cook noted that among his beefs with the pledge that his disappointment with the current political climate and that President Donald Trump “has been attacking our liberties.”
However, when interviewed by The Washington Post, he added, “I don’t spend much time thinking about President Trump.”
Cook said the pledge has become passé.
“If you ask 10 Americans who wrote it, or when it was implemented, or why it is how we start our meetings, a lot of us would be hard pressed” to answer, he told the Chronicle.
The Pledge of Allegiance was first written in 1892 in Rome, New York, by Francis Bellamy, a former Baptist minister, as a simple way for children to show patriotism, according to the Utica Observer-Dispatch. It was embraced by schools, and its use spread to public bodies. Bellamy, a Christian Socialist according to Fortune, did not initially include the words “under God.” They were added to the pledge in 1954.
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
— Pledge Allegiance (@Daily_Pledge) October 14, 2018
Cook drew no reaction when instead of the pledge, he read what he said was a quote from Angelou that read, “When you learn, teach. When you get, give.”
San Francisco school board president began meeting with poetry. That wouldn’t be so unusual except for the fact that Stevon Cook broke with protocol by purposely omitting to say the Pledge of Allegiance. In its place, Cook quoted from Maya Angelou https://t.co/T8kyrdC6kV pic.twitter.com/PbYL4YGlKU
— KTVU (@KTVU) October 11, 2018
In its reporting on Cook’s actions, The Washington Post said the quote could not immediately be found in Angelou’s works, but that Oprah Winfrey has said the words were said by Angelou.
“There are a lot of ways to express gratitude and appreciation for the country and its citizens,” Cook said, according to the Chronicle. “This is how I plan to do that.”
The board has historically opened its meetings with the pledge. Cook has been among those board members who would stand to its recitation, but would not say it.
“We should stand for (the pledge) because those ideals are important to me,” he told the Chronicle. “To speak them is another thing.”
Cook said he is not protesting.
“I’m no Colin Kaepernick,” he said, according to the Chronicle, referencing former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick who started the NFL trend of players protesting during the pre-game national anthem. “I’m Stevon Cook.”
Cook initially told the Chroncile that writer Toni Morrison, gay rights advocate and assassinated San Francisco Board of Supervisors member Harvey Milk and novelist James Baldwin will be among the sources he mines for quotes with which to open future meetings.
In his interview with The Washington Post, he added Benjamin Franklin, Abraham Lincoln and the Wright Brothers to the list.
“I’m not doing it as a way to seek attention,” he told the Chronicle. “I really think that these people are a great testament to our values and who we should aspire to be as Americans.”
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