Here’s a change of tradition I’m not used to seeing, but it’s a welcome change that ought to be adopted in other places.
The Oakland City Council in California, now under the leadership of new president Rebecca Kaplan (below), decided to replace the Pledge of Allegiance this week with something far less ritualistic: They used the time to let a resident show off talent. In this case, local artist Jennifer Johns sang a song.
It’s not clear if the change is permanent, but it damn well should be.
Kaplan, who was voted in as president earlier this month, told the audience she is “looking to start the meetings with a variety of different people to bring their gifts” to the council chambers.
“I thought it would be nice to start meetings with good energy,” Kaplan said.
For now, Kaplan said she wants to keep the option of having a performance or the pledge at council meetings. It has become a custom for residents and some officials, including Kaplan, to end the Pledge of Allegiance with “justice for all … someday.”
“You could call it a ‘stand’ if you want to,” Kaplan said in a response to a question. “But for the past two years I’ve been taking a knee during the pledge so it’s more of a knee than a stand.”
Making the Pledge optional is a fine way to go. Like a prayer or invocation, anyone who wants to can pray silently before the meeting starts. Ditto with the Pledge. And rather than saying something that includes problematic phrases like “One nation under God” and “Liberty and justice for all,” allowing local residents to perform something meaningful to them seems much more worthy of celebration — and doesn’t exclude those who might want to pray.
Of course, they could skip all of this and just get to work… but letting citizens perform seems perfectly appropriate for a city council meeting. Good on Kaplan for testing this out. While the change isn’t permanent yet, it’s a fantastic idea.
(Thanks to Brian for the link. Image via Kaplan for Oakland)