A Short History Lesson
President Washington observed, “Many things which appear of little importance in themselves and at the beginning may have great and durable consequences from their having been established at the commencement of a new federal government.” With this in mind, he proceeded with great care.
Did you know that the phrase, “So help me God,” was added by George Washington during his inauguration? It is not officially part of the oath of office, but because of the precedent set by our first president, all presidents after him have ended the oath with those words.
Did you know that Washington kissed the Bible used during his inauguration? He kissed it. Many presidents after him kissed the Bible on their inauguration days, too.
Did you know that George Washington, on his first inaugural, had the Bible opened to Genesis 49:13? It says,
he shall become a haven for ships,
and his border shall be at Sidon.”
Some presidents after Washington have chosen to have the Bible open to a certain passage or verse. Some, I suppose due to weather, keep the Bible closed. You can see a list of the Bibles used and the verses they were opened to at the Presidential Inaugurations site. It’s a very interesting piece of inauguration day history. For example, President Clinton had his Bible opened to Galatians 6:8, “For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.” If only he had done what it says…
Nowhere is there a rule dictating that a Bible must be used or that the president must mention God. John Quincy Adams used a book of US law. Some presidents didn’t swear on any book at all. According to one wiki page (I can’t remember which page I was on), FDR was the last president to not mention God during his oath.
I wonder what President Obama will do. I am going to be optimistic and assume that he will use a Bible and that he will say, “So help me God.” Perhaps he’ll use a verse that hearkens back to the liberation of the Israelites from Egypt? Or maybe a verse about being an overcomer?
What verse would you suggest?