- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 13, 2001

Standing against a backdrop of 400 little hands imprinted on a long, white sheet that said "We love America," students at Amidon Elementary in Southwest yesterday joined schools throughout the country in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.
The flag outside the school was too tall for some of the younger children, but they craned their necks and squinted at the sun, enunciating every word with Education Secretary Rod Paige, who joined them in the Pledge Across America program.
"Our flag is a symbol for all Americans that we are protected from violence and terrorism. It is important for teachers to display that freedom and patriotism by focusing on the flag," Mr. Paige said.
As many as 100,000 schools nationwide received letters from Mr. Paige's office this week, calling on them to recite the pledge together at 2 p.m. yesterday.
Mr. Paige said he got the idea from a former California teacher, Paula Burton, who has been working to educate the country's schoolchildren about the pledge after discovering how little they know about it.
At Amidon, the enthusiasm was obvious. As 2 p.m. neared, children gathered on the school grounds with their teachers as parents watched. Taking the lead was Alexander Moore, 9, who welcomed Mr. Paige and then kept time until the clock struck two.
His mother, Vicki Moore, drove down during her lunch hour from her office near the White House. She wept as she took pictures of her son standing next to Mr. Paige.
"I am so proud of him. [Mr. Paige] is such a positive role model when we see so many negative things around us," she said. Asked how patriotic her son was, she replied with a laugh: "As patriotic as a 9-year-old can be."
But Alexander took his responsibility very seriously. "I spent six hours last night preparing for this," he said, detailing his readings about the flag and the Department of Education. It seems all the hard work was worth it.
"This was the best day of my life," Alexander said after the event.
Alexander's teacher, Alissa Peltzman, said she and other teachers at the school had prepared the children by explaining what the pledge meant.
"We made sure they understand every word of it, who says it, what it stands for," she said.
Districts left it to individual schools to decide whether to participate, and most area schools contacted said they had joined in.
At Fox Mill Elementary in Herndon, 654 students, kindergartners through sixth-graders, recited the pledge, hands on hearts.
"I think it is important that at a time like this we all focus on the positive," said Principal Janet Foster. "I want these children to feel safe, that we are all in this together. [The pledge] is another way of showing how we feel as a group," she said.
In Montgomery County, children from diverse backgrounds recited the pledge together.
"When I read the letter from the secretary of education, I thought this was the right thing to do," said Principal Kathy Brake of Washington Grove Elementary in Gaithersburg.
Several children at her school, she said, belonged to immigrant families; some had come from war-torn areas.

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