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The Oath of Office

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George Washington is known to this day as being the president with the shortest inaugural address. His words to the people created a burden of accountability that he owed to them and which he placed on himself; an oath of honor and trust. He uses the word “upbraidings” in relation to himself for what the people should do if he doesn’t honor the constitution. It could be said he basically expected the people to upbraid him if he didn’t follow his oath.

The speech was succinct. It offered the people one central theme; Washington should be judged first and foremost by his loyalty to the constitution, and that any violation of this loyalty should result in the people “upbraiding” him. Does our generation, in the midst of this political culture, feel the same burden of accountability to the constitution – and to holding presidents to it?

The word “oath” should have with it a powerful meaning. When people sit to observe an oath they are taking part in an obligation. The people who witness the gestures and verbal exclamations of the oath are taking part in the obligation to uphold it. Whatever psychological affects are manifest in the man who makes the oath, there is much to be considered for the people witnessing it. The oath represents balance between the leader and his people and is in fact the major thing which keeps the relationship symbiotic.

The founding fathers must have known this. They knew how important the presidential oath was. Before a man could ascend to the level we call “President”, he needed to endure the social gauntlet that is the oath of office. How interesting that the founding fathers intuited the level of importance for this oath to the extent they wrote out the exact words a person must speak before they become president.

There is no other political position for which the Constitution specifies the exact words that must be spoken before one can attain it.

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