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 by Ron Cruger
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C
The new oath
         It was January 3rd and the new members of the House of Representatives and the Senate were gathered in the great hall of Congress. In a smallish side room two men were standing over an antique oak table reading from a single sheet of paper.
         The older man, balding and tanned, the Vice President of the United States, spoke, “You sure you want to go ahead with this. It could cause a problem?”
         The other man, stocky, with a full head of grey hair, was the Speaker of the House of Representatives. He said, “I have no doubt this is going to cause some disorder and confusion, but I think it’s the right thing to do. The American public, in general, will applaud us for doing it.”
         The Vice President nervously squared his shoulders and stood taller. His concern was obvious. “This is a giant step, Mr. Speaker. It could change the entire way our country conducts its affairs.”
         “No doubt about it, Mr. Vice President, and that’s why I am positive we should go ahead with it. You and I and the President have spent many hours going over it. I believed in it six months ago when we began and I still do.”
         “Mr. Speaker, let’s do it.”
         With that, each of the two powerful men walked through the door leading to the great hall of Congress where all the members of the Senate and the House of Representatives were gathered this January afternoon to perform a solemn and festive constitutional rite as old as the Republic.
         As was custom, the Vice President of the United States walked to the podium to the applause of the entire Congress. He smiled, acknowledged the welcome and bid members of Congress and their guests to sit.
         “Thank you, thank you very much. Thank you. I appreciate it. Thank you ladies and gentlemen of Congress. Today is a very special day. Perhaps more special than any of you thought it might be. Today is the day you take the oath of office for your elected positions.”
         “The American public, for many years, has been losing confidence in this body and today what we do will bring about a change in the attitude of all Americans towards us, their elected representatives.”
         “So, now, let us proceed with the Oath of Office. Would you all please stand.”
         The Vice President cleared his throat with a small cough and turned behind him to the Speaker of the House, who offered a discreet thumbs up.
          The Vice President began, “Please say after me – “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.”
         With that the members of Congress stirred. Some started shaking hands with their fellow Senators and Representatives, congratulating themselves.
         But they were not done.
         The Vice President brought them to attention.
         “Ladies and Gentlemen of Congress. Please. Please. We are not yet done. Let us continue with your oath.”
         Waiting for quiet, which came after a few seconds, the Vice President continued.
         “Please say after me – I also do solemnly swear that all of my actions in deed and thought will be only for the betterment of my constituents and the citizens of this great nation. I will accept no gifts, presents, favors or gratuities from anyone. I will not accept any trips sponsored or paid for in any way by any firm, business or consortiums. I hereby promise to immediately report to the Speaker of the House or the Vice President any attempt to proffer any type of gift or favor to me. I shall listen to official lobbyists to determine the value of their arguments, but I will not accept any donation, of any kind, including travel, from them. My singular motive for being a member of this august body is to better the occasion for my constituents and the citizens of this great nation. I agree that any breach of this oath is grounds for my immediate dismissal from this representative body, including loss of all my benefits. So help me God.”
         A great silence came over the great hall of Congress.
         The Speaker of the House adjourned the meeting, but there was little movement. Just shock and surprise.
         Finally, the members of Congress; Senators and Representatives filed though the doorways. All bore the look of great surprise. Small groups began to form. They discussed what had just happened. They were the first elected representatives to have taken the new oath.
         In the hallways outside the great hall of Congress lobbyists from Pfizer, Chevron, Alcoa, IBM, Merck, Microsoft, Wal-Mart and dozens of other firms gathered in groups to discuss the impact of the addition to the oath just given to Senators and Representatives.
         Off to the side, near the men’s room, a lobbyist for one of America’s largest pharmaceutical giants was shaking hands with an old associate – the Representative from his state, now serving his sixth term in Congress.
                   “What the hell are we going to do now?”
         The Representative looked the lobbyist in the eye and said, “I don’t know, I really don’t know. It’s the damndest thing, isn’t it?”
         Back in the little room off the great hall the Vice President and the Speaker of the House loosened their ties and sat down on either side of the oak table.
         The Vice President took a deep breath and said, “It’s gonna hit the fan now, isn’t it?”
         The Speaker of the House sighed and answered, “It’s something that should have been done a long time ago, isn’t it?”
         The two reached across the table and shook hands. They had made history this day.