Head, Heart, Hands and Health

Anyone who went through 4-H, as I did, will probably start quietly reciting the pledge upon seeing those four words.

I pledge my head to clearer thinking, my heart to greater loyalty, my hands to larger service, and my health to better living for my club, my community, my country and my world.

Here’s a radical notion for you—what if we made that our second “Pledge of Allegiance”* for the nation?

Look at what it does.
  • It speaks to good habits, values, community, and a broad vision.
  • It calls on us both to give back and to pay it forward.
  • It rests on an inclusive view of community, spiraling outward from people you see every day to people you will never see, and asks you to live in service to all of us.
  • It unites rather than divides and does not ask you to give up or to reject any other belief system.
  • It sums up an ethos of leadership, citizenship, thought, and health.

It even provides a handy mnemonic to help you memorize it.

To top it off, the 4-H motto is a simple call to action that could equally come straight out of a book on quality management or one on what great leaders inspire people to accomplish: To make the best better.

Thank you, 4-H Club of the Tammany School District in Lewiston, Idaho.

*Don’t get me wrong—this isn’t an anti-Pledge of Allegiance rant, although giving our allegiance first to the flag and only then to our actual nation harks back to anti-immigrant and Confederate-era issues I would hope we can lay to rest at some point. I will offer up one small edit for your consideration, however.

The original version read, "I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."

The Pledge of Allegiance was edited in 1954 to add the phrase “under God.” The story I was told growing up was that this served as some sort of defense against “godless Communism.” 

I guess those godless Communists were somehow incapable of lying and if you caught someone skipping that phrase you could just slap on the cuffs and haul him off to Joe McCarthy’s committee. Of course, people with quite sincere beliefs in a deity or deities may not be willing to take this oath at all since doing so violates their religious beliefs.

If instead you say “one nation, under law,” you are referring to something we all have in common—the rule of law—rather than something that can be incredibly divisive: what you do or do not believe about God and government. Worth considering.

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