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'The very purpose of a national flag is to serve as a symbol of our country,' Texas v. Johnson, 491 U. S. 397, 405 (1989), and of its proud traditions 'of freedom, of equal opportunity, of religious tolerance, and of good will for other peoples who share our aspirations,' id., at 437 (Stevens, J., dissenting). As its history illustrates, the Pledge of Allegiance evolved as a common public acknowledgement of the ideals that our flag symbolizes. Its recitation is a patriotic exercise designed to foster national unity and pride in those principles. The Pledge of Allegiance was initially conceived more than a century ago.

As part of the nationwide interest in commemorating the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus' discovery of America, a widely circulated national magazine for youth proposed in 1892 that pupils recite the following affirmation: 'I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands: one Nation indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for all.' J. Baer, The Pledge of Allegiance: A Centennial History, 1892-1992, p. 3 (1992) (internal quotation marks omitted). At the time, the phrase 'one Nation indivisible' had special meaning because the question whether a State could secede from ...

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