VALDOSTA -- As a show of patriotism throughout America, Education Secretary Rod Paige is asking every one of America's 52 million school children to recite the Pledge of Allegiance today in unison.

For schools in the Eastern Time Zone, which includes Lowndes County, the observance will be at 2 p.m. The synchronized Pledge of Allegiance was proposed by Celebration U.S.A, a nonprofit advocacy group whose stated purpose is "to teach children the basic principles of American democracy and to invigorate patriotism."

Paige said although school children are the focus, he invites all Americans to take part.

"I ask students, teachers, parents and other proud Americans across the country to join me in showing our patriotism by reciting the Pledge of Allegiance at a single time and with a unified voice," Paige said. "Together, we can send a loud and powerful message ... 'America is one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.'"

Paige said the synchronized Pledge of Allegiance is a response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Lowndes County Schools Assistant Superintendent Ron Irwin said county schools will definitely be on board.

"I sent emails to all our schools about the event," Irwin said. "I think the mood of the country is, we all need to get together in support of the president and our military to show the world that we are unified under one flag."

Sallas-Mahone Principal Rick English also stressed the importance of this observance to the children and pledged his support.

"We need to stress the importance of the Pledge and explain to the children about what it means to be a patriot," English said. "Many of them are from military families, and their fathers are gone ... it will help them cope as well as educate them about unity in our nation."

Janine Josey, Valdosta City Schools community relations director, said each school in the city system has been notified. She feels confident that they will all join in the observance.

Education Department Spokeswoman Lindsey Kozberg said notifying all the schools was a big challenge that took some time.

"Last week, we started sending out about 107,000 letters to every public and private school," Kozberg said. "We are also using email, fax and our automated Internet advisory."

She said they used every means at their disposal to inform schools nationwide of the event. More than 200,000 school systems were contacted.

"It's an opportunity for American school children to be a part of a nationwide display," said White House press secretary Ari Fleischer Wednesday.



The Associated Press contributed to this report.



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