Students in all South Dakota public schools should recite the Pledge of Allegiance daily, a state legislative panel decided Wednesday.

The issue became a hot button of topic after the Sioux Falls School Board decided last year not to extend the lower grades' daily pledge recitation to high schools. That led to a barrage of criticism from around the U.S. — including death threats against some board members.

The board later reversed course and asked high school students to recite the pledge daily.

Furthermore, each public school district is to give students the chance to recite the pledge each day. If a student chooses not to take part, they would be required to maintain a respectful silence while others recite the pledge.

As a youth in school, the Pledge of Allegiance was recited daily, without exception, with hand over heart. It was a reminder that we are unified as a country. Brave men and women helped secure our nation through much sacrifice, and regardless of sex, race, or religion, we are still one nation under God.

Interestingly, the pledge was first published 1892 with the hopes that the pledge would be used by citizens in any country. Then, in 1923, the words, "the Flag of the United States of America" were added. And in 1954, in response to the Communist threat of the times, President Eisenhower encouraged Congress to add the words "under God," creating the 31-word pledge we say today.

"I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."

Those words still fill me with a sense of swelling pride in my country every time I hear it. And the best way to hear it is from the mouth of children with hand over heart.

This mural assembled by students at Sioux Falls Christian is proudly displayed in the hallway.

Dan Collins

The Associated Press contributed to this report