Brooklyn Pol Mandated Pledge Of Allegiance Daily in Albany

by Harold Egeln (edit@brooklyneagle.net), published online 07-05-2011
Ferraro Represented Bensonhurst, Bath Beach
Arnaldo Ferraro as a Brooklyn Republican assemblyman 25 years ago.
Photo courtesy of Fiorello LaGuardia Republican Organization

By Harold Egeln
Brooklyn Daily Eagle

BENSONHURST — Amid the backdrop of the Fourth of July, an Italian-American political and cultural leader recalled his resolution passed by the state Assembly in February 1986 that made the daily recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance a permanent part of the Assembly’s daily business.

“It was my resolution 25 years ago, approved by the Assembly, that placed the pledge at the beginning of each day’s session in Albany, along with the tradition of a daily opening prayer,” said Arnaldo Ferraro, a pioneer Italian-American leader in Brooklyn.

He is a Republican who represented the 49th Assembly District, which includes Bath Beach, Bensonhurst, Borough Park and Dyker Heights, in 1985 and 1986. He was preceded by Louis Freda and succeeded by Peter Abbate.

As Brooklyn and the nation celebrated the 235th anniversary of the nation’s founding with the Declaration of Independence in 1776 yesterday, Ferraro, the founder and president of the Fiorello LaGuardia Republican Organization, recalled the measure that revised Assembly rules to include the pledge.

After noting that each session began with a prayer by a clergy person, Ferraro rose up on February 10, 1986. He said, as recorded in the Assembly’s record of proceedings, “Let us similarly pay tribute to this country by reciting the Pledge of Allegiance at the beginning of every session.”

Citing the reference to God in the opening prayer, Ferraro told his colleagues, “Having the country and the flag of the country as our inspiration, how can we, the members of the Assembly, be wrong in our deliberations?” He invoked the nation’s forefathers, who he said would be proud of the Assembly’s action.

Ferraro, who was born in Italy in 1936 and came to the United States in 1961, told the Assembly that he was humbled to serve his district and has “the pride of [being] a citizen by choice,” and his resolution was an opportunity to pay tribute to the U.S.

“This is the country, perhaps the only country in the world, where the dreams of an immigrant can still become a reality,” Ferraro told the Assembly. In 1964, at age 28, he founded the National Federation of Italian-American Societies, the first such Italian-American organization in the state, he noted.

Pledge Created in 1892, Adopted by Congress in 1942

The Pledge of Allegiance was written in 1892, in a slightly different form, by Francis Bellamy, a Baptist minister and Christian socialist, who kept it short so it could be read in 15 seconds, according to Wikipedia.

It first appeared in print on Sept. 8 of that year in a widely read children’s magazine, The Youth’s Companion, in a special edition devoted to the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ first landing in the Americas, Wikipedia notes.

The pledge, recited for 50 years in schools and at meetings, was officially adopted by Congress in 1942 during World War II. Amid a controversy that lasts until this day, the phrase “Under God” was added in 1954. The Knights of Columbus in this city started the movement in 1951 to add those words. In April 2004 on the 50th anniversary of that addition, the state assembly held a special celebration, led by upstate Republican-Conservative Assemblyman Gary Finch of Auburn-Owego, to mark the occasion of the pledge as it is recited today.

The 49th Assembly District which Ferraro represented played a key role in American Revolution War history, with historic New Utrecht Dutch Reformed Church and its Liberty Pole on 18th Avenue maintained by local historians and Boy Scouts.