North Dakota school board reinstates Pledge of Allegiance at meetings after angry backlash
By DAVE KOLPACK, Associated Press
FARGO, N.D. (AP) — The school board in North Dakota’s most populous city reversed course Thursday on its decision to stop reciting the Pledge of Allegiance at its monthly meetings, following complaints from conservative lawmakers and an angry backlash from citizens around the country.
Seven of the nine members of the Fargo Board of Education, including four newcomers who took office in June, voted last week to cancel a previous board edict that was approved a couple of months before the election. The new board agreed with member Seth Holden, who said the pledge did not align with the district’s diversity and inclusion code in part because the phrase “under God” does not include all faiths.
North Dakota Republican Gov. Doug Burgum earlier this week promoted new legislation that would require public schools and governing bodies to administer the pledge without mandating that people recite it. Republican state Rep. Pat Heinert, a retired county sheriff, is suggesting that sanctions be put in place for public boards and commissions that don’t require the patriotic oath.
Angry emails and voicemails dominated Thursday’s special meeting to reconsider the vote. Nyamal Dei, a refugee who fled war-torn Sudan, played a profanity-laced voicemail from a man who called her a slave, racist and Nazi. Several board members apologized to Dei, the lone Black member on the board, for taking the worst of the abuse.
Dei said reversing the decision would be giving in to hate. She paused for several seconds before casting the lone no vote to reinstate the pledge.
“We won’t be rewarding our children or students in our district for acting in this way,” Dei said. “But know that this moment will pass. Let’s get back to the work that we are elected to do and that is to find a solution to our teacher shortages, mental health issues and academic achievement for our students.”
City of Fargo spokesman Gregg Schildberger said police “are currently investigating a handful reports related to perceived threats” to at least three members of the board.
Board member Greg Clark said he broke down his angry messages and found that less than 20% came from Fargo. He acknowledged his vote to bring back the pledge was influenced by people he does not represent.
“But I hope you’ll forgive me because I truly believe it is in the best interest of our schools to do so,” Clark said. “The disruptions and the threats must end so that we can have a successful start to our school year.”
Holden, who made the motion to cancel the pledge, said he struggled with his decision but was heartbroken over the abusive comments and worried about the image of the board.
“I’m also concerned about what might happen to this board in the future because we’re going to have to probably be prepared to take more heat than we normally do for decisions that we make,” he said, “because that there may be a perception of success.”
Public comment was not allowed at the special meeting, attended by about two dozen citizens. A handful of them clapped after the vote. One of them, Vietnam veteran David Halcrow, apologized to Dei after the meeting.
“What was done to her … those people need to be in the clink,” said Halcrow. “It if were up me, they would be in jail. There’s no excuse for that kind of thing.”
The United States is a geographically vast, consumer-driven country with a mixed economy that allows for highly diverse industries, manufacturing, skill sets, tourism, cuisine, and commerce—and a wide-reaching culture to boot.
This country holds many things, from trees and national parks to suburban sprawl and crime. This is the land of plenty (128.45 million households in 2020), and of the few (just 321 drive-in movie theaters nationwide). In its short legacy, the country has also accrued a number of failed experiments and abandoned endeavors, including more than 3,800 ghost towns; in excess of 300 demolished or abandoned amusement parks; and a whopping 450,000 brownfield sites that are home to hazardous substances, pollutants, or contaminants. The U.S. accounts for a little over 4% of the global population, yet houses 20% of the world’s prisoners and is responsible for more than 30% of the planet’s waste. What other numbers make up this country?
To find out, Stacker scoured statistics, tourism boards, national parks service websites, and various datasets to bring examples of just how many of 50 different things exist in the U.S. From guns and movie theaters to parks and Starbucks, nothing was off-limits. The research spans all 3.797 million square miles of the U.S. and looks at topics including industry, business, personal finance, entertainment, and more.
Can you take a guess as to how many public schools are in the U.S.? Do you have any clue as to how many billionaires might be residing there? Read on to find out—and learn a thing or two about each selection’s cultural significance and legacy along the way.
Hedges & Company estimates there are 289.5 million registered cars in 2021, and projects 290.8 million in 2022. The year 2016 marked the first time more than 70 million cars were manufactured globally in a year (72,105,435, to be exact). Electric cars remain a small portion of all cars driven but are making inroads. In 2020, there were almost 1.8 million registered EVs in the U.S., a three-fold increase from 2016.
There are 63 national parks in the United States, some of the most famous of which include the Great Smoky Mountains, Grand Canyon, Zion, Yosemite, Yellowstone, and Joshua Tree. In 2020, three parks—Golden Gate National Recreation Area, Blue Ridge Parkway, and Great Smoky Mountains National Park—each enjoyed in excess of 10 million recreation visits. California and Alaska are the states with the most parks—nine and eight, respectively.
According to the Small Arms Survey report, which analyzes gun data from 230 countries worldwide, there are more than 393 million civilian-owned firearms in America. Analysis by The Washington Post concluded that the number represents a cache large enough for “every man, woman and child to own one and still have 67 million guns left over.” At roughly 120.5 guns per every 100 residents, the United States has double the ratio of Yemen, the next-highest country on the list, where there are an estimated 52.8 guns for every 100 residents.
There are 41,692 zip codes spread across America, each of which routes mail to its appropriate destination. The numbers range from 00501 (the lowest one for the Internal Revenue Service in Holtsville, New York) to 99950 (the highest one in Ketchikan, Alaska). Perhaps the easiest zip code to remember, according to USPS, is 12345, which belongs to General Electric in Schenectady, New York.
anthony92931 // Wikimedia Commons
As of 2020, there were 13,673 McDonald’s restaurants in the United States. West Virginia carries the distinction of having the highest density per population of the fast-food chain, with 5.8 stores per 100,000 residents. After that, the next most McDonald’s-populated states include Arkansas, Kentucky, Michigan, and Ohio. On the opposite end, Rhode Island, New Jersey, New York, and California have the fewest McDonald’s per capita.
Jacob Hamblin // Shutterstock
If you tally up all of the elementary, secondary, and combined schools throughout the United States, there were a total of 98,469 public schools in operation during the 2017-18 school year, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. The number gradually increased between the ’80s and late ’00s, going from 85,982 schools in the 1980–81 school year to 98,916 in 2007–08. The total peaked that year and has gradually declined since.
Despite all of the lawyer jokes, Americans actually love lawyers—or at least they produce a lot of them. There were 1,328,692 licensed and active attorneys in the United States in 2020. This was a 1.7% decrease since 2019, only the second decrease since the American Bar Association started recording data in 1878.
Known as “14ers” among mountain climbers and outdoor enthusiasts, the United States is home to 96 mountains that clock 14,000 feet or more in elevation. Of those, 53 are found in Colorado and 29 are found in Alaska. The other mountains are all found in Washington and California. Alaska holds the 16 highest peaks, with Mt. Denali being the tallest at 20,320 (and the only one to surpass 20,000 feet).
There are thousands of unsolved mysteries throughout America every year, many of which are homicides. Although it’s impossible to arrive at an exact number of serial killers, officials at the Murder Accountability Project (MAP) estimate there are as many as 2,000 at large. “There are more than 220,000 unsolved murders since 1980, so when you put that in perspective, how shocking is it that there are at least 2,000 unrecognized series of homicides?” MAP’s Thomas Hargrove asked Live Science. A serial killer is defined as anyone who has murdered two or more people.
In 2020, the United States comprised of approximately 128.45 million households, defined as a group of people living in a single housing unit. The housing unit could be a house, apartment, or room, as long as that room is meant to be a separate residence. The figure has doubled since 1970 when there were only 63 million households in the country. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the average household size is now 2.53 people.
About 580,466 people were homeless on one single night in the United States in 2020, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The agency’s Annual Homeless Assessment Report indicated that roughly 0.17% of the population was homeless on any given night. The figure represents the first increase since 2010, with Los Angeles and New York City being among the cities most affected. With unemployment and a looming eviction crisis due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of people experiencing homelessness in 2021 is expected to rise.
The National Association of Theater Owners reported there were 5,798 movie theaters open for viewings in the United States in 2020. Of those, 5,477 were regular indoor cinemas and 321 were drive-ins. Theaters were among the hardest-hit businesses in the COVID-19 pandemic, with some of the largest chains closing indefinitely and suffering enormous losses in 2020.
Although times have changed and the age of cell phones has mostly replaced landlines and pay phones, there are still a few lone booths hiding out in random nooks and crannies of America. According to the Federal Communications Commission, there were still about 100,000 pay phones in operation in the United States in 2018. New York is home to roughly one-fifth of those phones, which brought in $286 million in revenue in 2015.
The Pew Research Center defines nine key religious groups or identifications in the United States: Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Atheist, Agnostic, Other World Religion, and Other Faith (Unitarian, New Age, and Native American religions). Within each main group, there are dozens of families and denominations.
The United States is currently home to 10 cities with populations of more than 1 million people. At the top of the list is New York, followed by Los Angeles and Chicago. The other cities on the 1 million-plus list include Houston, Philadelphia, Phoenix, San Antonio, San Diego, Dallas, and San Jose.
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With 23,801 locations in the United States in 2019, Subway is the largest restaurant chain in America. The number dwarfs McDonald’s, which had 13,837 in 2019. However, the number doesn't necessarily mean the sandwich chain is experiencing total success—the number of Subway stores has decreased in the last few years, and in 2020, Subway slipped out of the top five most profitable restaurant chains in the U.S. Those more-profitable chains are Burger King, Taco Bell, Chick-fil-A, Starbucks, and McDonald’s.
From coast to coast, there were 59,052 bars serving drinks in America. The industry experienced negative growth of -1.9% from 2015 to 2020. Those statistics show the impact of COVID-19, which shuttered most of the industry in 2020 and made for a dismal year for bars and nightclubs.
America’s wild and scenic rivers are famous worldwide for their beauty. Although the exact number is unknown, there are at least 250,000 rivers flowing throughout the United States. They total more than 3.5 million miles—enough to stretch to the moon and back seven times. The longest river in the country is the Missouri River at 2,341 miles in length, although the volume of the Mississippi River is greater due to its depth.
The Bureau of Justice Statistics indicates that, in 2016, there were more than 12,000 police departments in operation throughout the United States. The number includes tribal police but does not include sheriffs’ offices, which are typically run by counties or other state subdivisions rather than local governments. The number of full-time officers in 2019 was 697,195, compared to a high of 708,569 in 2008.
Although they once roamed in giant herds numbering up to 30 million, today there are only about 500,000 bison in America. It’s still a number that impresses many citizens, though, given they only reside in national parks and refuges in Wyoming, Montana, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Iowa, and Colorado. The animals, which are the largest land animal in North America, are called bison in the Americas and Europe, and buffalo in Africa and Asia.
The most recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau indicates that there are approximately 17.4 million veterans living in America as of 2019. The Department of Veterans Affairs, which has 1,255 health care facilities throughout the country, serves roughly 9 million veterans. The agency offers services such as mental health treatment, physical therapy, prosthetics, dental exams, urology, and vision care.
Linguistically speaking, America is a strikingly diverse place where hundreds of languages converge. A report by the U.S. Census Bureau concluded that at least 350 languages are spoken in the United States. After English, the Spanish language is the next most common language in the U.S., with about 40.5 million speakers, or one in five U.S. residents, as of 2018. The next most common languages are Chinese (including Mandarin and Cantonese), Tagalog (including Filipino), Vietnamese, Arabic, French, and Korean.
Nowhere is it more true that dogs are everyone’s best friend than in the United States, where more than 48 million households have at least one dog. When tallied up, the total number of dogs as companion pets in the United States is more than 76 million.
Also prevalent and beloved in the U.S. are cats, which number more than 58 million. Slightly over a quarter of U.S. households contain at least one cat. Vet visits and vet bills are both lower for cats than for dogs.
The retail giant has more than 5,000 stores in operation that employ almost 1.5 million people. Of those stores, 3,570 are considered “supercenters,” while the rest are broken down into discount stores, neighborhood markets, small-format stores, and Sam’s Clubs. In the fiscal year 2021, Walmart’s global net sales totaled more than $555 billion. A 2018 study found Walmart to be the retailer engaging in the most wage theft against its employees, with $1.4 billion in total settlements and fines going to employees who were affected. Wage theft includes such practices as forcing employees to work “off the clock,” refusing to pay overtime wages, violating minimum wage laws, and requiring workers to buy clothing for work without compensation.
There were 3.3 million public school teachers, 205,600 public charter school teachers, and 509,200 private school teachers in the 2017-18 school year, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Teaching remains a career dominated by women—about 77% of teachers were women in the 2017-18 school year.
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Smith is one of the oldest surnames in the U.S., so perhaps it’s no surprise that it’s the nation’s most common last name. In the 2010 Census, there were 2.4 million instances of the surname recorded in the United States. After Smith, the next most common names included Johnson, Williams, Brown, and Jones.
The United States is covered in trees, which adorn its open space from coast to coast. There were an estimated 228 billion trees growing throughout the country in 2015. That number makes the U.S. fourth on the list worldwide, after Russia, Canada, and Brazil. Common species in the U.S. include oak trees, maples, Douglas firs, balsam firs, aspens, and dogwoods.
Ghost towns in the U.S. vary in nature but typically date back to the Wild West era, from roughly 1880 to 1940, when frontiersmen went in search of gold, silver, oil, and other valuable resources. The exact number is unknown, but one report by Geotab estimates there are at least 3,800 ghost towns spread across the United States. “Americans know them as vivid reminders of the country's compressed, dynamic and turbulent past,” Peter Ling, professor of American studies at the University of Nottingham, said of ghost towns.
With a criminal justice system holding nearly 2.3 million people, the U.S. has more than 7,000 correctional facilities spread across all 50 states. The facilities are divided into state prisons, federal prisons, juvenile correctional facilities, local jails, immigration detention facilities, and Indian Country jails. Beyond this number, there are additional sites where people are detained, such as military prisons and civil commitment centers.
Tero Vesalainen // Shutterstock
According to the ride-hailing company, there were 5 million Uber drivers in the U.S. at the end of 2019. Uber experienced financial losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Uber Eats, which delivers food, was a lifeline for the company during the pandemic, though workers and restaurant owners have pushed back against the model.
Pubdog // Wikimedia Commons
The United States Postal Service (USPS) plays an important role in daily American life, a fact that’s highlighted by the fact that there are more than 31,000 USPS-managed retail post offices that exist throughout the country. The U.S. postal service is one of the largest and most complex in the world, handling almost half of the world’s mail volume. In 2019, the agency’s operating revenue was $71.1 billion.
In 2016, there were roughly 111,100 gas stations in the U.S., ranging from small, family-owned pumps to major chain operations like ARCO and ExxonMobil. In September 2020, approximately 926,200 people were employed in the gas station workforce, including service station attendants, cashiers, food preparation workers, and station managers.
The U.S. contains stunning coastlines, many of which are decorated with old, historical lighthouses. There are approximately 700 lighthouses decorating the United States, the first of which was the Boston Light, built on Little Brewster Island in 1716. It was reconstructed in 1783 after being destroyed by the British. The oldest lighthouse in existence that’s never been rebuilt is the Sandy Hook Lighthouse, which was constructed in 1764 and still stands.
When a commercial site gets contaminated by some sort of chemical, pollutant, or other hazardous substance, the Environmental Protection Agency labels it a “brownfield” (nicknamed after the agency’s Brownfields Program, which helps clean up or mitigate the situation). In the United States, there are currently more than 450,000 brownfield sites. Common contaminants at the sites include pesticides, asbestos, lead, and other hazardous materials.
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The number of nuns in the United States reached its highest in 1965 when they numbered 181,421, and their population has been shrinking ever since. In 2019, data from the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate put their number at 42,441. Still, there’s a consistent trickle of women taking vows.
As the national emblem of the country, the bald eagle was chosen to represent the U.S. due to its “association with authority and statehood.” Former President John F. Kennedy later said that the “fierce beauty and proud independence of this great bird aptly symbolizes the strength and freedom of America."
Over the years, however, the real-life bird—which once numbered over 100,000—struggled to survive. It was placed on the Endangered Species List in 1967 and another updated version in 1973 but was removed in 2007 after officials said it was no longer needed. Recent counts suggest there are now over 300,000 bald eagles in the lower 48 states.
Nyamal Dei, a school board member in Fargo, N.D., is greeted by Vietnam veteran David Halcrow following a special meeting on Thursday, Aug. 18, 2022, to reconsider a decision by the previous board to eliminate reciting the Pledge of Allegiance before meetings. Halcrow apologized to Dei for a barrage of hate emails and voicemails she received following last week’s decision to ax the pledge. Dei, the lone Black member on the board, was the only person to vote Thursday against reinstating the pledge.