Book of Oaths

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Suzi LeVine became the first U.S. Ambassador sworn into office on a Kindle. She also took her oath of office not on the Bible, but on the U.S Constitution (open to the Nineteenth Amendment, the amendment granting women the right to vote). The New Yorker looks back at the history of oath taking and the texts office-holders rely on:

But the use of any text during a swearing-in ceremony is, if not exactly a gimmick, at least more style than substance. There is no constitutional requirement for any federal official—firefighter, ambassador, or President—to take the oath of office over a particular text or, in fact, over any text at all. This explains why LeVine was able to swear over the Constitution rather than the Bible, which is a much more common choice. Legally, if not diplomatically, “Moby-Dick” or “The Cat in the Hat” would have been just as acceptable.


Ian MacAllen is the author of Red Sauce: How Italian Food Became American (Rowman & Littlefield, April 2022). His writing has appeared in Chicago Review of Books, Southern Review of Books, The Offing, 45th Parallel Magazine, Little Fiction, Vol 1. Brooklyn, and elsewhere. He tweets @IanMacAllen and is online at IanMacAllen.com. More from this author →