The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Opinion

January 18, 2013

Taking the 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.” ~ Presidential oath of office, Article II, Section 1, U.S. Constitution

Some of the greatest and most noteworthy inaugural addresses in American history have come from the pens of our presidents.

Not that every word or syllable was smooth, iambic prose. In fact, some of our earliest and greatest presidents wrote speeches in such flowery verbiage that the true meaning of their words was missed — writing in ultra-long sentences a reader sometimes had to read and re-read many times just to gauge its meaning.

Presidents George Washington and Thomas Jefferson fall into this category. They wrote speeches during a time when flowing prose talked all the way around a direct meaning. For directness, you must move along a number of years and presidents.

But, such was American speech in its day, when inaugural addresses were long and people had nothing else to do but stand and listen to presidents orate.

President Washington set the bar for all future presidents, when he gave the first inaugural address, even though it was not mandated in the Constitution — as is the oath of office.

General George also set the precedent for presidents to kiss the Holy Bible upon taking that oath.

On April 30, 1789, in front of New York’s Federal Hall, our nation’s first president took the oath of office before a cheering crowd on a balcony overlooking Wall Street.

The longest and perhaps dullest inaugural address — and shortest presidency — is attributed to President William Henry Harrison, taking an hour and forty-five minutes to present. Speaking outside in a snowstorm, he contracted pneumonia and died a month later.

Yet, history records stirring words from some of our presidents upon taking office:

“Great is the stake placed in our hands; great is the responsibility which must rest upon the people of the United States. Let us realize the importance of the attitude in which we stand before the world. Let us exercise forbearance and firmness. Let us extricate our country from the dangers that surround it and learn wisdom from the lessons they inculcate.” ~ President Andrew Jackson, 1833

“With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.” ~ President Abraham Lincoln, 1865

“Much has been given us, and much will rightfully be expected from us. We have duties to others and duties to ourselves; and we can shirk neither. We have become a great nation, forced by the fact of its greatness into relations with other nations of the earth, and we must behave as beseems a people with such responsibilities. … While ever careful to refrain from wrongdoing others, we must be no less insistent that we are not wronged ourselves. We wish peace, but we wish the peace of justice, the peace of righteousness.” ~ President Theodore Roosevelt, 1905

“This great nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.” ~ President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 1933

“And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you— ask what you can do for your country. My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.” ~ President John Fitzgerald Kennedy, 1961

“The orderly transfer of authority, as called for in the Constitution, routinely takes place as it has for almost two centuries, and few of us stop to think how unique we really are. In the eyes of many in the world, this every-four-year ceremony we accept as normal is nothing less than a miracle.” ~ President Ronald Wilson Reagan, 1981

“In serving, we recognize a simple but powerful truth — we need each other. And we must care for one another. Today, we do more than celebrate America; we rededicate ourselves to the idea of America.” ~ President William Jefferson Clinton, 1993

On Monday, at the 57th inaugural address, President Barack Obama will put his hand on the Bibles of Abraham Lincoln and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., and follow historical precedent handed down from this nation’s very founding.

Christy is news editor at the Enid News & Eagle. Go to his column blog at enidnews.com/historicallyspeaking.

1
Text Only
Opinion
  • Going postal

    Waukomis residents have the opportunity to have their voices heard in regard to the future of their post office.

    July 22, 2014 1 Story

  • New dorm

    Breaking ground on a new dormitory at Northern Oklahoma College Enid is another step in the evolution of the campus.

    July 20, 2014 1 Story

  • Jeff Mullin mug 2012.jpg Stars in our eyes

    We caught the vision when, in May of 1961, John F. Kennedy told Congress, and the world, that the space race was no longer to be so one-sided.
    “First, I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the Earth,” he said.

    July 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • thumbs up logo.jpg Thumbs up for northwest Okla. communities, where net taxable sales figures are up

    Net taxable sales were up $1,917,774 in Enid, when compared to sales reported in July 2013. The increase amounted to a 2.6 percent increase in sales tax revenue for the city.

    July 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • Patsy Sorrels.tiff The key to God’s storehouse is in the giving

    Point being, there are a lot of hungry people out there who need to be fed the Bread of Life, and He needs to be served with a smile and a discerning heart.

    July 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • David Christy col. use clip.jpg Water, water everywhere?

    As Americans, we have taken water for granted far, far too long. We assume it will always be there, when we turn on the tap.

    July 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • Sheriff’s office, emergency management get new home

    The sheriff’s office and emergency management office will move in October or November to the former Grady Robbins Army Reserve Center on Oxford. The building has been unused since 2011 when the Armed Forces Reserve Center opened at Vance Air Force Base.

    July 18, 2014

  • Jeff Mullin mug 2012.jpg Airline passengers should not be casualties of war

    Nowhere in the flight attendants’ patter did the word “missile” appear, and the chance their gleaming Boeing 777 would be brutally slapped from the sky likely never even appeared even as a niggling doubt lurking in the darkest corners of the passengers’ minds.

    July 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Lady Liberty_MD.jpg Statue of Liberty replica should be repaired, returned

    Maybe we could learn a little from past history. Most know the original national monument was given by the people of France in recognition to a friendship that bloomed during the American Revolution.

    July 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Steps can be taken to prevent West Nile Virus

    Symptoms of the virus include fever, headache, dizziness and muscle weakness, although in rare cases it can cause severe neurologic disease such as meningitis, paralysis or encephalitis. Some cases can be fatal.

    July 16, 2014

Featured Ads
House Ads