Liberty and Justice for All

We discussed Will Phillips, the adorable 10-year-old Arkansas kid who is refusing to say the Pledge in class because he recognizes that there actually is "liberty and justice for all," in a thread earlier in the week, but there hasn't been a main-page post and I'm getting lots of emails about him. He is just about the cutest thing ever, so here's the video, with transcript below. Enjoy!
John Roberts, CNN Anchor: A 10-year-old boy from Arkansas is taking a stand by sitting down. Will Philips is refusing to pledge allegiance to the flag in his fifth grade classroom until there really is, as the pledge says, liberty and justice for all. That is, he says, until gays and lesbians have equal rights. Joining us now in an exclusive interview are Will Phillips and his father, Jay. They're in West Fork, Arkansas for us this morning. Will and Jay, good to see you this morning. Thanks very much for being with us. And Will, let me ask you first of all, when did you decide that you weren't going to stand up and recite the pledge?

Will Phillips: I decided that I was going to do that the weekend before when I did it. Um, I was analyzing the meanings of it, because I want to be a lawyer.

Roberts: Mm-hmm. All right. So what did you decide in "analyzing the meanings of it" that caused you not to stand up and recite the pledge?

Will Phillips: Well, I looked at the end and it said "with liberty and justice for all." And there really isn't liberty and justice for all. There's—um, uh, gays and lesbians can't marry.

Roberts: Mm-hmm.

Will Phillips: Um, uh, there's still a lot of racism and sexism in the world, um, yeah.

Roberts: All right. So you, so you think that the country isn't living up to the ideals of the pledge and you took it upon yourself to sit down and not recite the pledge of allegiance until the country comes in line with, to embody the ideals that are embodied in the pledge?

Will Phillips: Yes!

Roberts: All right. So, your teacher, who is a substitute teacher at the time, was giving you some grief about not standing up. And this went on for a few days. What did you eventually say to that teacher?

Will Phillips: I eventually very solemnly with a little bit of malice in my voice said, "Ma'am, with all due respect, you can go jump off a bridge."

[Roberts chuckles; Jay Phillips rolls his eyes and covers his face in an amusing way.]

Roberts: [trying not to laugh] You said, solemnly, with a little bit of malice in your voice, maybe you can go jump off a bridge. And we saw your dad, Jay, put his face in his hands just then. That obviously, Jay, earned him a trip to the principal's office, and you were contacted after that; what did you think when you heard what was going on there at school?

Jay Phillips [Will's father]: Well, my, my initial response was, uh, measured and considered, thoughtful and was—uh, he's dead. That's it. He's, he's doomed! [Phillips is obviously kidding and Roberts laughs.] Uh, however, when I got home and I talked to him, the more I heard from him, the more it became apparent that this wasn't a typical act of juvenile delinquency. This was a very atypical act of juvenile delinquency. He, uh, he just made it clear that he sat for four days and, uh, took brunt of the criticism. And reminded her that it was his first amendment right and that he didn't have to stand or say the pledge. And on the fourth day, he lost his temper. Now, he did apologize in writing to the teacher and we really, really want to emphasize that we have a wonderful school district, a wonderful town. This is a great community and that the teacher, in our opinion, was just trying to—

Roberts: Gotcha.

Jay Phillips: —to handle what probably to her seemed like a student who was trying to give the, uh, fill-in teacher a hard time.

Roberts: Gotcha. All right. Let's bring in Will here again. Will, why is this issue so important to you that you would commit, as your dad said, this atypical act of juvenile delinquency?

Will Phillips: Because I have many— I've grown up with a lot of people and good friends with a lot of people that are gay and I really—I think they should have the rights all people should. And I'm not going to swear that they do.

Roberts: So, so what's the reaction been from your fellow students at school to you not standing up for the pledge and the views that you hold about this issue?

Will Phillips: Not very good. They've, um, taken from what I said an assumption that I'm gay and in the halls and the cafeteria, I've been repeatedly called a gay wad.

Roberts: A gay wad. What's a gay wad?

Will Phillips: I really don't know. It's a discriminatory name for homosexuals.

Roberts: Okay. All right. Well, Jay, were you prepared—this has obviously gone well beyond the school; this is the sort of thing as you know gains the attention of the national media—were you prepared for the type of reaction, both positive and negative, that your son's actions have precipitated?

Jay Phillips: Well, actually, uh, before we heard from anybody, my first thought was oh, my god, this is the type of thing you see on CNN. [Roberts laughs.] And I sat down and talked to him and I said, uh, you know, you realize there's potentially severe ramifications to this. And we ran through everything and his words to me were that if there was a chance to talk to the local newspaper or something like that, that he wanted—he saw it as an opportunity to, uh, raise awareness and for education and he was very, very clear in that he felt that just because he's 10 years old doesn't mean he doesn't have opinions—

Roberts: Right.

Jay Phillips: —it doesn't mean he doesn't have rights and doesn't mean that he can't make a difference.

Roberts: He does seem to have very strong opinions, we should say, and obviously they are very reasoned out. We should say that he's an extraordinarily bright child. He skipped the fourth grade, went right from the third grade to the fifth grade. But Will, as we prepare to leave you here, what will it take for you to stand up and say the Pledge of Allegiance? And I ask this question based on what we saw in the off-year election just a couple of weeks ago: A same-sex marriage initiative was put to the test, put to the voters in the state of Maine, and every state across the nation where it has been put to the voters, it has gone down to defeat. So, the Democratic process is taking place here; it seems to be something that voters at large do not support. So what will it take for you to return to saying the pledge?

Will Phillips: For there to truly be liberty and justice for all.

Roberts: And what does that entail?

Will Phillips: That entails everyone being able to marry.

Roberts: All right. Will Phillips, Jay Phillips, great to see you this morning. Thanks so much for joining us. We'll keep watching the story. It's certainly an interesting one.

[Roberts waits for Will to say something; Jay nudges him and Will nods sagely. There is laughter in the studio.]

Roberts: Wow. He's got his arguments down.

Kiran Chetry, CNN Anchor: He does. He's a really, really well-spoken little kid.

Roberts: He is and he is certainly impassioned about this as well.

Chetry: He is!

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