As Americans, at some point in our education, perhaps even from early childhood, we have been taught that the President of the United States is the leader of our nation, often being exalted as “the leader of the free world”. With this mantle of leadership, the words of the president, for better or for worse, reflect on our nation as a whole, influence global perceptions of our nation, shape public policy, and can directly influence the hearts, minds, and actions of the American citizenry.
As attorneys, before we can be admitted to practice law in any state bar organization, we must take an oath, which begins, verbatim, “I solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support the Constitution of the United States . . .” The Oath of Public Office for the State of New York, which must be uttered by every sworn police officer or public official before being entrusted with official responsibilities, begins with this exact same language. Not surprisingly, this adherence to the Constitution is additionally reflected in the Oath of Office for the President of the United States, affirmed by Donald Trump himself on January 20, 2017:
“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) 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 requirement of allegiance to the Constitution for official service reflects the importance of this document to our national identity. It is more than a written framework for our laws and system of government, it represents our DNA as a nation, defining the inalienable rights of persons within our borders, and prescribing fundamental limitations on the power of the government to impose its will on the individual. It follows that the president of the United States is, through the very oath of the office, expected to protect, defend, and preserve constitutional principles at all costs.