One of the most memorable – and delightfully chaotic – moments to occur during the “Keeping the Republic” Journal launch and discussion last week happened when those attending the event recited Citizen University’s Sworn-Again American oath.
Turns out that it’s pretty much impossible to sync up the voices of 200-some people simultaneously reciting the same pledge over Zoom. (You can watch it all unfold starting about 5:47 into the video.) But that didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of the participants, several of whom said the experience was moving. The cacophony also provides perhaps a fitting metaphor for how chaotic civic life can feel right now.
In light of the continuing discussions going on about keeping the republic in our country, I wanted to take a moment to highlight the words of the oath again and tell you a little but of the story behind it.
The oath goes like this:
I pledge to be an active American.
To show up for others,
To govern myself,
To help govern my community.
I recommit myself to my country’s creed:
To cherish liberty as a responsibility.
I pledge to serve and push my country;
When right, to be kept right; when wrong, to be set right.
Wherever my ancestors and I were born,
I claim America
And I pledge to live like a citizen.
In his book “Become America,” Citizen University CEO Eric Liu, explains that the idea is inspired by the oath that naturalizing citizens must take to officially become Americans.
“After we’d been to several of these naturalization ceremonies, my wife, Jená, the cofounder of Citizen University, had a brilliant idea. What if we created something like that for everyone? Not just immigrants becoming citizens but people born here too, folks who never have been asked to reflect on the content of their citizenship,” Liu writes.
People have taken this oath and held Sworn-Again American ceremonies in towns all across the United States, Liu writes, in locations as varied as military bases, libraries, college campuses and convention halls. But in a time when the pandemic limits large gatherings, there’s also something to be said for reading it aloud alone or a group of others on Zoom.
It might not sound perfect. But with so many of us thinking deeply about the future of our country following the events of Jan. 6 in the U.S. Capitol, it’s something small you can do to reflect on what it means to be an American.
Give it a try and share your reflections with us on the experience.
Chris Green is the managing editor of The Journal, the print and digital magazine published by the Kansas Leadership Center.