The San Francisco school board’s new president broke with protocol Tuesday night by deciding to skip the Pledge of Allegiance before a meeting, The San Francisco Chronicle reported.
In its place, Steven Cook recited a quote from the poet Maya Angelou: “When you learn, teach. When you get, give.”
Cook told The Chronicle he chose not to enforce the pledge because of his disappointment with the political climate. He said the Trump administration “has been attacking our liberties.”
The Pledge of Allegiance, while required by state education code, is rarely enforced by schools, district officials said. District spokesman Gentle Blythe said it is not required for school boards.
“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),” Cook said.
There are a lot of ways to express gratitude and appreciation for the country and its citizens. This is how I plan to do that.
The Pledge of Allegiance was written in 1892 by Francis Bellamy, a Christian socialist minister. In the mid-1950s, President Dwight D. Eisenhower asked Congress to include the words “under God,” amid the rise of communism.
Cook reportedly told no one of his idea to skip the Pledge of Allegiance. Some board members were receptive to Cook’s new idea.
“It feels respectful and it feels thoughtful,” said school board member Rachel Norton. “Maya Angelou is an alumnus of (San Francisco’s) Washington High School, so what better way to start a new tradition.”
Cook said he will read an inspirational quote from influential Americans before each meeting.
“There are a lot of ways to express gratitude and appreciation for the county and its citizens,” he said. “This is how I plan to do that.”
Cook played down any parallels to former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who drew controversy for refusing to stand for the national anthem before NFL games in the 2016 season.
“I’m no Colin Kaepernick. I’m Stevon Cook.”