Swearing the Oath in Washington D.C., Richmond, and Lynchburg
Later this week, the presidential tradition will continue. Donald Trump will officially be sworn in as the next President of the United States. If you watch (or even personally attend) the festivities, you will see a day filled with ceremony. Some may see it all as unnecessary, and yet it is a tradition that represents one of the things that makes this nation, and its legal system, great.
Donald Trump’s Oath of Office:
The highlight of the inauguration is the swearing into office. Donald Trump will put his hand on a Bible and say the following oath:
I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.
Why do we do this? Why doesn’t Donald Trump just move in now that he has won the election? The answer is that the symbolism is important. The democratic nature of our country is entirely dependent on the participation in that democracy. Even the Democrats who are boycotting understand this. If the people of this country do not buy into democracy, democracy is nothing.
Terry McAuliffe’s Oath of Office:
This ceremony filters down from the federal level of government to the states. In Virginia, the governor participates in a similar kind of ceremony before assuming office. In 2014, Terry McAuliffe swore the following oath before assuming his new position:
I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support the Constitution of the United States, and the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Virginia, and that I will faithfully and impartially discharge all the duties incumbent upon me as [elected office], according to the best of my ability (so help me God).
It is an oath that the next governor will be asked to say in January 2018.
Joan Foster’s Assumption of Office:
In 2016, a new mayor was chosen in the City of Lynchburg, Virginia -- Joan Foster. She, a member of City Council, assumed the office by being elected by her peers in City Council. While the format of her election was different, it represents an important position filled via democratic process at the local level.
Your Oath in Court:
Why does any of this matter? Why are we discussing this here? As mentioned above, the stability of this country’s government, which infiltrates much of its infrastructure including the legal system, is predicated on the swearing of an oath. Most of our elected officials at all levels – federal, state, and city – do it as a mostly symbolic but necessary step before assuming office. We see it as necessary because a person’s word is important. A person’s word means something.
The same thing applies to you. If you ever end up in court and you are asked to swear an oath, you have to do it. Raising your right hand and telling the courtroom that you promise to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth is largely symbolic. It will not keep you from lying if you want to (of course), and yet, it is something you are still asked to do. Your word matters.
Regardless of how you feel about our country, we all benefit from its order in society. As Donald Trump takes his oath on Friday, think about all of the other oaths upon which this country has been built. While his oath is one of the most public oaths a person can make, your own oath is no less important. Taken together, they make our country -- from the White House to your house and everywhere in between – strong.
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