Life in the Box: Oath of Truth


This is the oath of office every U.S. Senator and Representative swears to verbally, and in writing, on the first day of their service:

“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.”
 

It’s pretty good, and was written to make sure that, for one thing, representatives were not serving the king of England, or any other country. “America first!”

In his book, Predictable Irrational author Daniel Ariely describes studies about honesty that basically conclude that people are measurably more honest if they sign an oath to that effect. So, I have a healthy respect for asking people to formalize their promises.

And because in recent days we’ve heard so much about fake news, alternative facts, and just plain lies, I think we’re due, as citizens of the United States, to get an additional promise or two out of our representatives.

For starters, an oath of truth:

I solemnly swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth [in public,] except in dire circumstances where the truth could incite war or create great loss of life.

I added “in public” to give them some room for political negotiation strategies. Let’s face it, they might need to stretch the truth when they’re off the record. 

An oath of free speech:

I swear to never write, support, or further any law or activity that suppresses free speech in America, including but not limited to: freedom of the press, government employees, whistleblowers, and any minority group. At the same time, I will counter any lies, hate speech, or war-mongering speech that endangers America, not with laws but with my own concerned voice.

A “civility in running for office” oath:

I swear that I will never speak, imply or infer any lies about any person running for office, be they my opponent or my colleague. I will never engage in unworthy practices such as character assassination or worse. I know I can win office based on my own merits, my honesty, my willingness to tell the truth, and my proven willingness to work hard for the greater good of all those I serve.

A “willingness to change my mind” oath:

During my campaign, I have chosen to narrowly define who I am and what I stand for. Now that I have been elected, I will put all my campaign slogans away and define myself as one who creates greater good. I will be open-minded and I will listen to many angles and possible solutions for problems. This means that I will never sign into legislation any law based on superficial, shallow, mean-spirited or greedy slogans; and that I will thoroughly research laws to make sure they are based on scientific studies, legality, reasonable cost estimates, and will do no harm to any group, be they people who voted for me or not.

A “willingness to give up my job” oath:

I swear that I will stand up for truth, justice, and American freedoms.  If I find reason to not follow Party lines, or if I vote counter to my campaign words, or if I otherwise become “unpopular,” I will bear that burden. Doing what is right for the nation is more important to me than keeping my job.

A “public opinion does not define me” oath:

While there is a place for studying public opinion, I do swear that I will not use polls to decide legislation. The majority is not always well-informed, open-minded, or cool-headed enough to write legislation. That is my job, and in order to do my job well, I will take many points of view into account, with due diligence.

A “basic needs” oath:

I swear that I will uphold laws that support all Americans’ ability to have enough food, clean water, non-polluted air, health care and shelter. These are the basics of life, and should be provided to all people. Those Americans who have more than enough, financially, should be encouraged to share freely. If they do not, I will support laws that require the rich to support the poor. And, if any individual or group of individuals is causing harm to water, air, land, or people, I will support laws that restrain them.

My imagination is still working on further basic oaths, for instance, maybe we need economic oaths for government spending, and something that protects the middle class, and freedom of religion oaths that limit fundamentalists from creating laws that force everyone into their box, but for now this is a starter. I’m going to run these by a few friends and legislators, and maybe get something going. Wouldn’t it be fun to create one big version of this and send it to every single legislator–then publish who does and doesn’t sign it?

Nancy Heather Brown is a retired, Emmy Award-winning television producer whose career has included interviewing, writing, and editing for a span of four decades. Today, she enjoys learning new things and reflecting upon the creative process and the world of ideas both inside and outside the box.  Her opinions are her own and don’t necessarily represent the opinions of this web site.

Author Dan Ariely

Book Predictably Irrational on Goodreads

History of the Oath of Office