2nd Sample Chapter
|In 2009, Chief Justice John G. Roberts and President Barack Obama misstated the presidential oath, leading to a do-over the next evening at the White House. It was the first time in eighty years that the oath had been improperly administered. A chapter in Democracy's Big Day entitled "Let's Hear It for the Girl" tells what happened back in 1929 when Chief Justice Taft (at the left in the picture) administered the oath to President Hoover:||
On March 1, 1929, three days before the upcoming inauguration, Chief Justice William Howard Taft wrote the following note to President-elect Herbert Hoover:
I have thought it would be wise to put into written form the details of the ceremony of taking the oath, so that, subject to your approval, you and I shall know what we are to do.
The ceremony will begin behind the stand where the oath is to be taken, you with your back to the Senate, and I with my back to the House. Without any preliminaries, I am to say:
“You, Herbert Hoover, do solemnly swear that you will faithfully execute the office of President of the
You will then answer “I do.”
Sure enough, three days later, as millions of Americans listened to a live radio broadcast of the ceremony, Taft recited the oath and
Although no one else had noticed such an error, Helen was certain Taft had mistakenly substituted the word “maintain” for the word “protect.” She was so sure, in fact, that she wrote a polite letter to the chief justice in
Even after the young critic received this letter from Taft, she stood her ground. She insisted that her version of the chief justice’s mistake reflected what had really taken place in
Upon learning the error of his ways, Chief Justice Taft later laughed and said, “I think you’ll have to get along with what I’ve already said. After all, I don’t think it’s important." When Americans went to movie theaters that week, they got to see and hear the sound newsreel of the ceremony. Then, absolutely everyone knew the truth: little Helen Terwilliger had been right all along.
Photo credit: Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, National Photo Company Collection, reproduction no. LC-USZ62-17145.