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Pledge of Allegiance

Following the chaplain's prayer, the presiding officer leads the Senate in the Pledge of Allegiance. One Senate leader recently gave this vivid impression of the ritual's inspirational value. ”The American flag–transcendent, noble, still–commands our humility and binds us in the common project of serving the body politic.”

The American flag had become a standard fixture in the Senate Chamber by the 1930s, placed directly behind the presiding officer. A half-century later, as the Senate began televised coverage of its floor proceedings, the flag was moved to the presiding officer's right side so as not to appear to be bisecting that official's head on television screens. To balance the American flag, the Senate created a flag of its own–displaying the Senate seal on a field of dark blue–and placed it on the presiding officer's left.

Congress formally recognized the Pledge of Allegiance–first written in 1892–on December 28, 1945. In 1999, a New Hampshire resident contacted the office of Senator Robert Smith to inquire why the Senate did not follow the House, which had incorporated the Pledge into its proceedings 11 years earlier. Spurred by this inquiry, the Senate amended its standing rules on June 23, 1999, providing for the presiding officer to lead the body in the Pledge at the start of each daily session. President Pro Tempore Strom Thurmond inaugurated this tradition on the following day.

Baker, Richard A. The New Members' Guide to Traditions of the United States Senate. (Washington, GPO, 2006. S.Pub. 109-25), 15.

 
  

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Questions about Senate History?

E-mail a Senate historian. historian@sec.senate.gov

Learn More About Traditions

About Senate traditions with the Guide to Senate Tradtions index page.