Wednesday, April 11, 2001
Steamboat Springs The Routt County Commissioners were taken a little aback this week by a suggestion from the county's new manager to say the Pledge of Allegiance before their action meetings on Tuesday morning.
"I don't know that the board has ever been that formal," said Commissioner Doug Monger, who was elected for the first time in November. "It's like having a gavel."
The suggestion was one of a number of changes made by County Manager Tom Sullivan as he tries to help the commissioners rearrange their schedules to make them more available for policy making.
Sullivan hails from middle America: a small Kansas county where the Pledge of Allegiance is still said before board meetings. He served as the Barton County administrator before starting the job in Routt County last month.
Monger and fellow Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak weren't sure how to respond to the flag suggestion and seemed a little surprised. With Commissioner Dan Ellison missing from the meeting, they were able to avoid making a decision.
"That one's under consideration pending Commissioner Ellison's comments," Stahoviak said.
Later in the day, Ellison was asked about the pledge.
The Steamboat Springs City Council doesn't say the Pledge of Allegiance either, said Kevin Bennett, president of the council.
"I don't know that it's ever come up," Bennett said. "To my knowledge in my 30 years (in town), I don't recall it being a tradition."
That's not the case in Hayden, where town trustees not only say the Pledge of Allegiance, but also open with a prayer.
The Colorado House of Representatives cites the pledge at certain times.
"We say the pledge when the national guard presents the colors at the beginning of each session or any other time they present the colors, but not every day," said House Secretary J.R. Rodrigue.
Rodrigue said they also have a prayer before they go into session because it's in their rules.
The Pledge of Allegiance was originally written for a nationwide school celebration back in 1892, said Dr. John W. Baer, the author of "The Pledge of Allegiance, A Centennial History, 1892-1992.
In an interview from his Maryland home, the retired economics professor explained that in 1892, the popular national magazine "The Youth's Companion" had asked Francis Bellamy to write a school program, structured around a flag-raising ceremony for Columbus Day in 1892.
He said the magazine had a lot of clout because there were no televisions or radios. Instead, families would read magazines together.
"In 1892, it wasn't normal to have a flag in front of the school, but the Youth's Companion was selling flags in its ads," Baer said.
Needless to say, after the ad campaign by one of the country's most popular magazines, the new flag salute took off with patriotic fervor.
"The United States is unique in that it has a verbal flag salute," Baer said. "We're also the only country that has a song dedicated to our flag, the Star Spangled Banner."
Baer said the Supreme Court has ruled that schools cannot force students to say the Pledge of Allegiance.