Most people witness a President-Elect of the United States stand on the steps of the Capitol and take an oath of office that is prescribed by the Constitution of the United States. What many may not know is that a version of that oath is also taken by senior federal officials serving in the White House, cabinet departments, agencies and the U.S. Congress.
This second oath goes as follows:
I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.
For decades, individuals entering the highest ranks of our government have taken this oath and stayed true to it during their service to the people of the United States.
The hearings last week brought this to mind and took me back to January 21, 1981 when, at the age of 29, I took this oath as I became a senior member of the White House staff. The morning ceremony was solemn. The senior members of the staff assembled in the East Room of the White House. As we settled, President Ronald Reagan, who took his oath of office one day earlier at his Inauguration, entered the room. He stepped to the podium and with no prepared remarks shared his thoughts about the journey on which we were embarking.
Leadership, it is said, starts at the top. That morning, President Reagan wanted all of us to know that we were one group, joined with him to do the work of the American people. He also wanted us to know that we had a higher loyalty than to any one individual. With that, Chief Justice Warren Burger was invited to deliver our oath of office. (In case you are looking at the video, he stood right in front of me.)
Yes, the moment was recorded and can be viewed on a six-minute video: CLICK HERE.
So, I reflected during the past week on how one individual, Cassidy Hutchinson, who probably was not even senior enough to take this oath, lived up to the oath so many around her took and yet abandoned as they substituted their self-interest for a commitment made to the American people.
No one told Cassidy Hutchinson just what “support and defend the Constitution of the United States” would look like. But, she was clearly certain that encouraging people known to have firearms to march on the U.S. Capitol in an effort to prevent the certification of an election lost by an incumbent President called for actions avoided by others in the White House more senior than she.
The oath is given to impress upon all who take it the importance of their service. Throughout history, our nation has withstood challenges, mostly from foreign threats. The fact that this oath has motivated people like Cassidy Hutchinson and Congresswoman Liz Cheney to accept responsibilities to a higher authority than a defeated President or a reelection campaign suggests the wisdom of our founding fathers in having the belief that if not all, at least most would indeed support and defend the Constitution of the United States.
On this 4th of July holiday, I surely will be saying thanks to all those who took and lived by this oath.
Craig Fuller served four years in the White House as assistant to President Reagan for Cabinet Affairs, followed by four years as chief of staff to Vice President George H.W. Bush. Having been engaged in five presidential campaigns and run public affairs firms and associations in Washington, D.C., he now resides on the Eastern Shore.