I’ve been trying to focus on writing my novel. I click on the document, open it and stare at my outline. I see the words, but they’re empty of meaning. This is not usual for me. Most of the time when I’m determined to get a piece of writing done, I do it. Especially on a deadline. Everything else falls to the side.
So what was different about yesterday? My attention was not on my monitor, it was on my television, showing the inauguration of a new president. So why is this any different than past inaugurations, I ask myself, after being on the planet for sixteen inaugurations. Why am I so distracted, so emotional, with this one?
It’s not like I didn’t care before. I worked for 35 years as a federal employee for the U.S. Department of the Interior, having worked under several presidential administrations, Republican and Democrat, through the years. Most of the time I worked for a Commander-in-Chief that I hadn’t voted for. But whomever took the oath on the Capitol steps, we had agency staff meetings where we were told, “This is your new boss. You will respect the office, no matter your political views or personal beliefs.”
And so I did.
I did my job, because I believed I was doing it for the people, the taxpayers of our country. I took it seriously. I didn’t always like the policies or decisions handed down from the departmental or agency level, that I was mandated to follow. But whether I liked it or not, didn’t matter. I was hired under the same oath as the president and vice-president of the United States. I said the same words, first in 1977, when I was first hired by the U.S. Forest Service in Montana, and again in 2008, when I was required to undergo a new background clearance check for my new agency, the Minerals Management Service, later named the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, in the U.S. Department of the Interior, in Alaska. The same words as Teddy Roosevelt.
I said, with raised hand:
“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 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.”
When I said these words eight years ago, I meant them. Yesterday, when I heard these words stated by a new president and vice-president, I prayed they meant them too. And although I’ve been retired from my federal career for the past few years, these words still hold a powerful meaning.
Countless others have taken this same oath, those who have worked in civilian and military service for our country. For those who haven’t said them with hand raised, to another American with the responsibility of swearing people into government service, say them to yourself. Say them with every ounce of patriotic blood you have, even though you aren’t being sworn into an official capacity for the United States. Feel every word and what it means—for this is the pulse, the heart, of it all.
So help me God.
© Lois Paige Simenson and The Alaska Philosophaster, 2017, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to The Alaska Philosophaster with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.