Where Does The Oath Of Office Come From?

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Every incoming president back to George Washington has spoken the 37 words in the oath of office:

"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."
But where does the oath come from?

Marvin Pinkert, executive director of the National Archives Experience, says, "If I went up to 12 people on the street and said, 'Where would you find the instructions for the oath of office for the president of the United States?' I doubt that many of them would tell me, "It's actually written into the Constitution.'"

For a document that lays out general principles and avoids getting into too much detail — which is why Pinkert says we've been able to argue about it ever since — the oath is the one section that's really specific.

"It's the only sentence in quotes in the entire Constitution," Pinkert tells NPR's Steve Inskeep.

Although the oath is short, it took several takes for the founding fathers to get the final wording down. Delegates at the Constitutional Convention in 1787 struggled to come to terms with what the new office of the president of the United States actually meant, because there weren't a lot of precedents to go by.

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