“So help me God”

I do solemnly swear 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.

The 35 words of the presidential oath of office are found in the Constitution. “So help me God” is not among them.

NPR Morning Edition:

Marvin Pinkert, executive director of the National Archives Experience, says, “If I went up to 12 people on the street and said, ‘Where would you find the instructions for the oath of office for the president of the United States?’ I doubt that many of them would tell me, “It’s actually written into the Constitution.'”

Pinkert points to original documents displayed at the archives; they shine a light on what delegates might have been thinking as they crafted the oath. For example, the first printed copy of the draft Constitution contains suggested revisions by Washington and others.

“Among those changes,” Pinkert says, “is to cut out the word ‘judgment’ … and replace it with the word ‘abilities,'” which was later shortened to “ability.”

This ensures that the Constitution is supreme and that the president executes laws accordingly.

Listen now.

Some say George Washington added “So help me God.”

In a development Friday a judge won’t block Obama from saying ‘so help me God’. (This link has more about the tradition of “so help me God” and also about Bishop Robinson’s phrase “God of their own understanding.”)

Video of oath here. Johnson’s first is especially poignant.

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