Red Skelton’s America

Today, July 18th, is Red Skelton’s birthday.  For those too young to remember, Red Skelton was one of America’s favorite comedians.  He had a rubber face like Jim Carey and the ability to improvise like Billy Crystal.  Red Skelton made generation after generation of Americans laugh.

But, Red Skelton did something else … he reminded us about how wonderful it is to be an American.   He’s still reminding us today with his recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance that continues to make the rounds through cyberspace and You Tube, heard by millions of Americans. 

Red Skelton’s is the quintessential American story, a rags to riches journey that can only happen in America.  Dropping out of school at an early age to go to work to help support his family, he rose to become a successful entertainer, television host, artist and composer. 

His journey was anything but easy.  Red’s father died two months before he was born.  He had to quit school at an early age to go to work and help support his family.  Two divorces, a child who died from leukemia, a nervous breakdown, rejection by his television sponsor, and a changing culture that shelved his style of comedy were other hurdles Red Skelton overcame during his lifetime.

But, he was loved by the American people, loved because he made them laugh and sometimes, cry.  I remember watching one of his routines as a child that has stuck with me all these years.  It was shortly after the space program had been launched so everything that had to do with space travel captured our imaginations in a big way.

His routine was of an astronaut “walking” in outer space, hooked up to his spacecraft through an attached lifeline.  Without speaking a word, Red Skelton floated through space on the television screen, his face expressing amazement, surprise, levity and wonder as the astronaut revelled in his weightlessness and new found freedom.  But, eventually, his time outside the spacecraft was finished.  As the astronaut began pulling on his lifeline to return to the ship, he realized it had become unattached … and his carefree playfulness quickly turned to terror.  He feverishly tried “swimming” back, but to no avail.  Then reaching his arms as far as they could go, but again, without results.  The stage blackened with Red Skelton’s face frozen in disbelief as he realized the inevitable truth of his demise.

I was stunned.   I had entered the world Red Skelton had silently created and learned a little bit more about the fragility of life and the risks astronauts took to advance space exploration.  Red Skelton was quite a talent.

 His love for America was quite evident.  In 1969, he performed a skit centered on the Pledge of Allegiance, acting out his own childhood experience of his school principle explaining the meaning of the Pledge to the young students.   You can watch it here.    

What is equally amazing is that this type of entertainment was normal a generation ago.  Actors and actresses were patriotic and proud to be so.  There were no rancid diatribes about America, no commentaries about America’s failings.  At the same time, neither was there a robotic fantasy that America had no room for improvement.  There was simply an unapologetic respect for America.  

Interestingly, Red Skelton mentioned at the end of his routine that it would be a shame if “under God” was ever taken out of the Pledge because someone claimed it is a prayer.  That was in 1969, after Madeline Murray O’Hare had successfully fought for the removal of prayer from public schools.  It would take another 33 years before “under God” was challenged.  Michael Newdow  sued his daughter’s school over the phrase. 

Thankfully, Newdow lost his argument.  But, the phrase is still under attack as is the Pledge itself, being put on the back shelf by more and more schools.  One Massachusettes student  fought to have his school keep the recitation.  NBC recently omitted “under God” in its opening for the U.S. Open.  Americans were outraged, and rightly so.

The Pledge of Allegiance is one of America’s most beloved traditions, a unifying recitation that has gone through two edits and encouraged multiple generations of Americans to continue their quest for liberty and justice for all.

Spend a little time today celebrating Red’s birthday by listening to his patriotic routine about the Pledge of Allegiance.  And pray that more American entertainers will openly and unapologetically declare their patriotism to our great nation.


Tags: , , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: