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***Update***: Join the “Will Phillips – you are awesome!” Facebook group!

I have a new hero.

His name is Will Phillips and he’s 10.

Part of the reason I like him is because he doesn’t stand up during the Pledge of Allegiance. It has nothing to do with the “Under God” phrase, though.

Listen to the wonderful way he articulates why he doesn’t want to do it:

Will’s family has a number of gay friends. In recent years, [mother] Laura Phillips said, they’ve been trying to be a straight ally to the gay community, going to the pride parades and standing up for the rights of their gay and lesbian neighbors. They’ve been especially dismayed by the effort to take away the rights of homosexuals — the right to marry, and the right to adopt. Given that, Will immediately saw a problem with the pledge of allegiance.

“I’ve always tried to analyze things because I want to be lawyer,” Will said. “I really don’t feel that there’s currently liberty and justice for all.”

At the end of our interview, I ask young Will a question that might be a civics test nightmare for your average 10-year-old. Will’s answer, though, is good enough — simple enough, true enough — to give me a little rush of goose pimples. What does being an American mean?

“Freedom of speech,” Will says, without even stopping to think. “The freedom to disagree. That’s what I think pretty much being an American represents.”

Awesome. Most adults can’t articulate a decent answer to that question.

But here’s the clincher and the reason Will deserves your respect. Because of his family’s support of the GLBT community, you can guess what the other kids say about him:

“In the lunchroom and in the hallway, they’ve been making comments and doing pranks, and calling me gay,” [Will] said. “It’s always the same people, walking up and calling me a gaywad.”

Will is still holding true to his beliefs, though, because he know what he stands for. Those kids don’t understand so they say whatever they can to make him feel bad.

(Don’t back down, Will! A lot of us are looking up to you.) He has a level of maturity that most high schoolers never attain, much less a 5th grader.

How incredible is that?

Hats off to David Koon of the Arkansas Times for bringing this story to a larger audience.

(Thanks to Richard P. for the link!)