Pledging persistence

The Baltimore Sun

Even the Pledge of Allegiance couldn't bring together two of Maryland's fiercest political rivals.

The state's governors were invited yesterday to a commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the daily recitation of the pledge at Chick & Ruth's Delly, a popular eating place near the State House.

The bipartisan event brought together former Govs. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a Republican, and Democrat Marvin Mandel. Democratic Annapolis Mayor Ellen O. Moyer also took part.

But Gov. Martin O'Malley, a Democrat and Ehrlich adversary, couldn't attend because of scheduling conflicts, though spokesman Shaun Adamec noted that his absence was "no slight to the importance of the event."

Delly owner Ted Levitt said he started leading patrons in the pledge every morning after discovering his children didn't recite it in elementary school because officials feared the "one nation, under God" line could offend or exclude some children. He also got the school principal to reinstate the pledge there.

Restaurant patrons are asked to stand at 8:30 a.m. on weekdays, and 9:30 a.m. on weekends, and turn to a flag hanging near the sandwich board as Levitt leads the recitation over a loudspeaker.

"We started doing the pledge just because we can," he said, "because we're proud to be in this country where we're allowed to do what we want when we want as long as we do the right thing."

The restaurant was established when Chick and Ruth Levitt moved from Baltimore to Annapolis with their three children in 1965 and took over a sandwich shop on Main Street. Their son, Ted, became the youngest counterman at age 9 and still works the place with his wife, Beth.

Mandel, a frequent diner at the colorful landmark, said he was there the first day they rose to say the pledge. He said he hopes the tradition is carried on for another 20 years.

"This is something we can all do to show our appreciation," Mandel said.

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