Variations on a Pledge
I pledge allegiance to my Flag, and the Republic for which it stands: one Nation indivisible, With Liberty and Justice for all.
- The original words of the Pledge of Allegiance, 1892

So few words, so many arguments. Yet the Pledge of Allegiance has never been static. On this July 4 weekend, Outlook offers 19 variations on the theme.

When we invited various and sundry people - diverse in profession, geography as well as background - to revise or even rewrite the Pledge of Allegiance, one told us the current wording is "just Yankee Doodle Dandy"; it could not be improved upon.

Another explained that she had "a problem with the whole idea of pledges and allegiances.... It's a paradigm I find dangerous." A third noted that, in such an exercise, "the line between treason and self-parody is narrow indeed."

But most, in the spirit of self-expression that we celebrate on the Fourth, seemed happy to walk that line. Here are their alternative pledges - some a mere tweak, others more inventive - crafted by people who neither found the pledge perfect nor considered the paradigm dangerous.

Richard Rodriguez, writer
Robert Olen Butler, novelist
Christopher Buckley, humor writer
Azar Nafisi, author, "Reading Lolita in Teheran
David Corn, Washington editor, the Nation magazine
Julia Gorin, "The Conservative Comedian"
Nan Aron, president, Alliance for Justice
Joyce Appleby, historian
Lonnie G. Bunch, director, National Museum of African American History and Culture
Joseph Epstein, writer
Kwame Anthony Appiah, professor of philosophy
John Allen Paulos, mathematician
Peter Mehlman, film and television writer
the editors, the Boston Review
Minxin Pei, senior fellow, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
John Brady Kiesling, former diplomat, resigned to protest the Iraq war
Greg Nagy, director, Harvard's Center for Hellenic Studies in Washington

And comments from two who chose not to revise:
Robert Pinsky, former poet laureate
Peggy Noonan, former presidential speechwriter

© 2005 The Washington Post Company