John F. Kennedy said it during his swearing in ceremony almost three years before I was born.
Lyndon B Johnson said it after Kennedy died, and again in 1965 with Lady Bird at his side. Her solemn face only allowing a smile after the final word of the oath of office was completed.
Nixon was next, with Pat slightly raising her chin when he said three special words; followed by Ford then Carter. They all said it in their own style, with their own emphasis and punctuation. Slow and steady, with a very Southern flair, or with their best resolve.
Reagan said it twice while nodding with determination as only he could do; his second round was more subdued and solemn than the first. Then Bush the Elder, and Clinton twice, his first oath completed with a slight grin and classic tightening of his lower lip, the second completed much like Reagan’s second – more subdued and solemn. Bush the younger twice (interestingly, with the same pace and energy level as the first time) and finally Obama. Obama’s oath of office was interesting in that there was more than the usual level of cheering from the crowd, Obama smiled a little more than most presidents preparing for the oath of office, and he and the Chief Justice had to repeat a few words in order to get things straight.
But every one of these presidents, and all those before the ones I’ve listed here, took the oath of office on inauguration day, and they all said this:
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.
Many of them ended their oath with, “…so help me, God.” And, all of them could have certainly used the help of a Higher Power to manage their work. But one of the strongest portions of all the videos I’ve reviewed was that of each president stating that they would “preserve, protect and defend” the Constitution of the United States.
In other words, the elected leader of the U.S. swears to preserve, protect and defend the supreme law of our country…in front of God and everybody. It’s a very public oath for a very serious job.
Many of those reading this post today will have taken a very public oath for a very serious job of their own – their wedding vows, pledged to their partner in front of God and everybody. And I’ve been wondering about something. We know that traditionally couples affirm phrases to each other such as:
I take you to be my wedded wife/husband. To have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness or in health, to love and to cherish ’till death do us part. And hereto I pledge you my faithfulness.
In other words, they have pledged their faithfulness to “the supreme relationship status” in our country. But I wonder, would vows be measured and stated any differently if the phrase, “to preserve, protect and defend” were to be included? When I review the various phrases within traditional vows, there is an affirmation that a certain ownership or belonging exists, that it exists from this point until the couple is separated by death, and the relationship expects a broad spectrum of challenges and joys. There is even a pledge of faithfulness…of “stick-to-itivness,” so to speak.
However, today when I was reviewing a chapter in the Prevention and Relationship Enhancement Program today, a sentence gave me pause. The words, “preserve and protect” were written while explaining a concept about the need for continuous investment toward each other when in a committed relationship.
Preserve. Protect. And my mind filled in…defend.
Relationships do better when a couple can set boundaries and bottom lines against entities that threaten their substance. Relationships do better when there is safety provided and safety expressed among and between the two. And relationships do better when either person knows that loyalty exists, and their honor or heart or hopes and dreams will be defended by the other if threats become present from an outside source.
Relationships do better when their oath of office includes preserving, protecting and defending. And people can thrive and grow when they know their partner has their back.
So, today if you need to shore up your own oath of relationship office, maybe you should. And, if you’d like to say it? Go ahead! Have your own swearing in ceremony…it might be kind of cool.