Over the weekend, in the suburbs of Chicago, students at Glenbard South High School held an outdoor graduation ceremony (with masks and appropriate social distancing).
The retiring principal, Sandra Coughlin, opened the event by reciting the Pledge of Allegiance… but omitting “Under God” and “the United States of America.” You can hear it toward the end of this short video:
I don’t know whether she just flubbed it or deliberately chose to leave those parts out. (While I can justify removing the “Under God” bit, I’m not sure why you would omit the country’s name… especially after a line about pledging allegiance “to the flag.”)
But it was hardly a big deal. A cursory search online found no complaints about the Pledge other than one angry tweeter who also tagged right-wing media outlets to generate outrage.
That would make sense. It’s a high school graduation. The students have more important things on their mind that a mindless ritual most of them never cared about during the school day anyway.
The Illinois Family Institute, however, wants to make this a Big. Freaking. Deal. The Christian hate group posted that video online with a description that’s just begging conservative news outlets to pick up on this story. (It was followed up today with an online story from Laurie Higgins.)
It starts with a lie: The principal’s comments generated “audible outrage from the attendees.” Where? It’s not in that video. (You can see the full version here at the 52:20 mark. There’s no audible anything after she’s done.)
Then IFI’s angry rant just gets comically bizarre:
My finely honed powers of deduction lead me to believe she is a leftist. It is leftists who abhor tradition. It is leftists who hate America. It is leftists who reject God. It is leftists who seek to divide. It is leftists who exploit their government-subsidized jobs to advance their own socio-political purposes.
What is uniquely galling is that Coughlin chose to ruin a special family milestone — one made more special this year by the trials suffered by students and their loved ones because of the pandemic and the selfishness of teachers’ unions — in order to get her two worthless cents in. She demonstrated a degree of self-righteousness and self-absorption remarkable even for leftist change-agents who identify as “educators.”
You would think someone who abhors tradition would’ve done away with the Pledge completely instead of saying it right after an introduction from the militaristic drill team and before the National Anthem. (To pretend the left is trying to “divide” while acting like the people who stormed the Capitol earlier this year were just on a tourist visit is beyond delusional.)
I’ve been to a bunch of high school graduations. No one gives a shit about the rituals. The families want to hear their children’s names, see them walk across the stage while getting their diplomas, and take a bunch of pictures. The rest of it may be tradition but it’s mostly forgettable. No one has ever left a graduation ceremony talking about how awesome the Pledge of Allegiance was.
Meanwhile, Higgins is still infuriated. It’s not apparent if she even attended the ceremony or has any connection to it at all. She’s just rage-writing on behalf of unnamed nobodies.
This was not an act of inclusivity or kindness. It was the rhetorical equivalent of giving every American of every race, ethnicity, nation of origin, and religion who loves this country and its principles the middle finger.
It was a brazen insult hurled at everyone in the audience who believes that all men and women are endowed with unalienable rights by their Creator.
In choosing this particular moment and this year — when classes are over and just one month before she retires — to express her disdain for America and God, she also revealed her cowardice. She performed her act of rebellion and disrespect for every student, every family, and every taxpayer at a time when she will suffer no consequences. It was the ultimate act of contempt: On her way out the door, she insulted those who will now have to subsidize her hefty pension.
My goodness, how fragile is the faith of all these people that their religion could be shattered because they didn’t hear their personal God’s name uttered in a piece of propaganda that didn’t even include the damn phrase when it was first written?
If this were an act of rebellion, maybe IFI can point to a statement from the principal where she explains why she did this. If someone’s delivering a secular invocation at a city council meeting, you can rest assured they’ll gladly (and publicly) explain why they’re not including God in their comments. But instead of quoting the principal, IFI just made up an entire right-wing conspiracy theory and assumed the principal was on board with all of it.
It’s all utterly irresponsible of IFI. If Higgins wants to talk about ruining a graduation, then she should be condemning her own group for politicizing a ceremony. They’re the ones who brought religion and politics into it. They’re the ones overreacting to a nothingburger. They’re the ones whose entire organizational purpose is to convince their elderly right-wing base that educators are all part of some secret Marxist cabal trying to indoctrinate kids.
They turned comments off on that YouTube video, by the way. It’s not like they can ever handle being corrected on their lies.
***Update***: The district issued a statement this afternoon including an apology from Coughlin:
Dear Students, Parents, and Community Members,
At what should have been a celebratory event for the Class of 2021 at their commencement ceremony, I made a horrific mistake by accidentally omitting some key clauses within the Pledge of Allegiance, including “of the United States of America” and “under God.” I sincerely apologize for the error.
As I stood at the podium before my last graduation as Principal I found myself more emotional and anxious than expected. As I began. I checked the color guard; I lost my place; and I accidentally omitted key phrases. After 30 years in education, and countless times reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, I lost track and fumbled the speech.
I would never intentionally disrespect our great country, our flag, nor the men and women who have done so much to protect and defend our freedom. This was a mistake and not a political statement. I have no political agenda as some have suggested.
It was not my intent to offend our graduates, families, or the public. Again, I sincerely apologize for the error.
Glenbard South Principal
Wow. Shocking. It was an accident and not whatever a right-wing hate group claimed.
Given that this was a now-admitted mistake, the Illinois Family Institute ought to apologize to Coughlin for trying to turn this into some deliberate act of liberal hijacking.