Stevon Cook dropped reciting the Pledge of Allegiance at his first meeting as San Francisco's school board president Tuesday night, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, which characterized it as a "first time in memory" action.
Instead of the pledge, Cook read a quote from poet Maya Angelou: “When you learn, teach. When you get, give,” the paper said.
Image source: KRON-TV video screenshot
Cook told the Chronicle he'd been considering dropping the pledge after his election following former President Hydra Mendoza's exit two weeks ago.
“There are a lot of ways to express gratitude and appreciation for the country and its citizens,” Cook added to the paper Wednesday morning. “This is how I plan to do that.”
State education code requires schools to conduct a daily patriotic exercise, but district officials told the Chronicle the code doesn't extend to public meetings.
But while the pledge for decades has been the first order of business at the city's school board meetings, the Chronicle said not all board members have participated in it, with some standing but not reciting the words.
Cook was one of them, the paper said.
“We should stand for [the pledge] because those ideals are important to me,” he told the Chronicle. “To speak them is another thing.”
What else did Cook say?
Cook told the paper that the administration of President Donald Trump “has been attacking our liberties” and that the pledge's historical context has been lost on most people.
“If you ask 10 Americans who wrote it, or when it was implemented, or why it is how we start our meetings, a lot of us would be hard pressed [to answer],” he added to the Chronicle, which noted Cook did the research.
More from the paper:
It was written by a socialist minister, Francis Bellamy, in 1892, and amended a few times. In 1954, President Eisenhower, in response to the rise of communism, asked Congress to include the words, “under God.”
Initially, after reciting the pledge, students were encouraged to extend their arm, palm down, toward the flag — a ritual discontinued during World War II because it resembled the Nazi salute.
How did one school board member react?
School board member Rachel Norton told the Chronicle at first she didn't notice that Cook hadn't called for the pledge but then asked him afterward if he forgot.
The paper said Norton was impressed when she realized Cook had a reason for omitting the pledge.
“It feels respectful, and it feels thoughtful,” she added to the Chronicle. “Maya Angelou is an alumnus of [San Francisco’s] Washington High School, so who better to start a new tradition?”
Cook intends to continue skipping the pledge, KRON-TV reported. Cook told the paper he will use quotes and writings from other Americans, including writer Toni Morrison, gay rights icon Harvey Milk, and novelist James Baldwin.
“I'm not doing it as a way to seek attention,” he added to the Chronicle. “I really think that these people are a great testament to our values and who we should aspire to be as Americans.”
Cook also told the paper that putting aside the pledge wasn’t an act of protest but a recognition that other Americans' words also can express American values such as inclusion and social justice.
“I’m no Colin Kaepernick,” he added to the Chronicle, a reference to the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback who began kneeling for the national anthem at NFL games in 2016 to protest oppression of people of color and police brutality. “I’m Stevon Cook.”
(H/T: The Daily Wire)