Public Statements & Remarks

Opening Statement of Commissioner Dan M. Berkovitz before the Meeting of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission

June 04, 2020

Liberty and Justice for All

Mr. Chairman, shortly after becoming Chairman of the CFTC you started a new practice where we begin our public meetings by saying the Pledge of Allegiance:

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.

We recite the pledge and then move on to consider the pending Commission business.

Today, though, we should pause before we move to consider the pending business.  Cries of anguish, anger, and protest ring out from cities across our country, because for too many Americans—particularly Black Americans—there has been too little liberty and too little justice for far too long.  As a nation, we have not fully lived up to the words in the pledge.  Today, we should consider this too.

We should begin by asking ourselves:  Why have we not achieved liberty and justice for all?  How can we work together to achieve it?  And then we must renew our commitment to achieve it.

Before we started saying the pledge at open Commission meetings, the last time I had said the Pledge of Allegiance was in Mrs. Farrell’s 6th grade class at my elementary school in West Lafayette, Indiana.  Every morning, Mr. Leap, the school principal, would read the pledge over the loudspeaker, and we would stand at our desks, hand over heart, facing the flag in front of the classroom, and say it along with him.

Back then, I said the pledge because I was told to and everyone else was saying it.  But I didn’t fully understand it.  The word “indivisible” confused me—I thought it had something to do with invisibility.   We did not spend any time talking about the pledge or what it meant.

When I learned that we would be saying the pledge at our Commission meetings, I remembered elementary school and the words came right back to me.  But, this time around, I didn’t want to say those words just because an authority was prompting me to say them, or because it would look bad if I didn’t.  I thought about what it means to say those words, and what those words mean to say.

We pledge allegiance not only to the flag as a symbol, but also to the republic for which it stands.  A defining feature of this republic, a unique experiment in the history of nations, is that we are not just one nation, as stated in the pledge, but we are one nation of many people.  Our national motto, “E Pluribus Unum,” means “out of many, one.”  No matter our race, religion, national origin, sex, or other orientation, we are all Americans.  Our diversity makes us stronger.  We must remain committed to advancing that diversity. 

The pledge also embodies the fundamental principles of our republic of liberty and equality under the law.  Francis Bellamy, the author of the original pledge, explained why he chose the words “liberty and justice” in the pledge:  “Liberty and justice were surely basic, were undebatable.”[1]

So what does it mean to say these words?   A pledge is defined as a binding promise or agreement to do something.  Saying the pledge is not just a show of patriotism, or respect for the flag, but rather is a binding promise, a commitment to the underlying values of our republic.  When we say the pledge, we are promising to make the words in the pledge a reality.  We are making a commitment to achieve liberty and justice for all.     

Although we have been making this promise since we were schoolchildren, and generations of schoolchildren before us have made this promise as well, this promise has yet to be fulfilled for all people in this nation.  We are seeing yet again the tragic consequences of the failure to live up to this promise.  The promise has gone unfulfilled for far too long.  As Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote from the Birmingham jail, “justice too long delayed is justice denied.”[2] 

When we say the pledge, we cannot just say the words.  We must renew and strengthen our commitment to liberty and justice for all.  Today, I renew my pledge of continued support and commitment to liberty and justice for all.

Thank you. 

 

[1]  Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pledge_of_Allegiance, citing Francis Bellamy, “A Brief Synopsis of the Story of the Origin of the Pledge taken from the Detailed Narrative by Francis Bellamy, Author of the Pledge.”  91 Cong. Rec. (1945) House:  5510-5511.  

[2] Martin Luther King, Jr., “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” (Apr. 16, 1963), available at http://www.africa.upenn.edu/Articles_Gen/Letter_Birmingham.html..

 

-CFTC-