- The Washington Times - Monday, October 1, 2001

Americans are well aware of the role of such patriotic symbols as the flag, the national anthem and the Pledge of Allegiance, but younger citizens may not be aware of the American's Creed, which played an important role in both world wars. For many years, the American's Creed was recited daily in schools and in public ceremonies.
The story of the creed begins early in World War I, when the nation was deeply divided over the course of action. In an attempt to solidify the public, a national writing contest was promoted with the goal of eliciting a statement of Americanism that was succinct yet comprehensive in its reference to the nation's tradition and values.
Mayor James H. Preston of Baltimore offered a prize of $1,000, largely because of the city's association with the birth of the national anthem. Not surprisingly, the size of the prize, a substantial sum of money in 1917, coupled with the unsettling effect of America's entry into the war in April, brought forth about 3,000 contestants.
The winner was William Tyler Page, who lived in the outskirts of the nation's capital in the Maryland suburb of Friendship Heights. In many respects, Page was an ideal author of a patriotic document. His family had come to America in 1650, and he had spent almost all his working life in the U.S. Capitol, first as a page and later as a clerk in the House of Representatives.
The key to Page's success as author of the creed was his ability to draw upon several important phrases from the nation's historic documents without affecting the flow of language. In his final draft, Page was able to allude to the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Gettysburg Address and one of Daniel Webster's most famous speeches all within 100 words.
As Page explained it, the creed "is not an expression of individual opinion upon the obligations and duties of American citizenship or with respect to rights and privileges. It is a summary of the fundamental principles of American political faith, as set forth in its greatest documents, its worthiest traditions, and by its greatest leaders."
On April 3, 1918, Preston awarded Page the prize in a ceremony in the House of Representatives that included the speaker of the House and the commissioner of education. The House formally accepted the creed on behalf of the American people. The presence of the federal education official ensured that the creed would become a widely disseminated document in future years.
ThecCreed still is included in information almanacs published annually in the United States.
After 1918, Page bought war bonds with his prize money, ultimately turning them over to charity. Over the years, he recited the creed in public ceremonies, including an impressive one in Washington just before his death on Oct. 19, 1942, during World War II.
The full text of the American's Creed reads:
"I believe in the United States of America as a Government of the people, by the people, for the people; whose just powers are derived from the consent of the governed; a democracy in a republic; a sovereign Nation of many sovereign States; a perfect union, one and inseparable; established upon those principles of freedom, equality, justice, and humanity for which American patriots sacrificed their lives and fortunes.
"I therefore believe it is my duty to my country to love it; to support its Constitution; to obey its laws; to respect its flag; and to defend it against all enemies."

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