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The Meaning of the US Oath of Allegiance

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  • 0:01 The Oath of Allegiance Itself
  • 1:41 Renunciation in the Oath
  • 2:18 Defending the Constitution
  • 2:57 Service of…
  • 4:05 Variations of the Oath
  • 4:35 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Amy Troolin

Amy has MA degrees in History, English, and Theology. She has taught college English and religious education classes and currently works as a freelance writer.

In this lesson, we will take a close look at the meaning of the US Oath of Allegiance. We'll examine the Oath section by section and identify a few possible variations used in certain circumstances.

The Oath of Allegiance Itself

The big day has finally arrived. You've completed the whole process of naturalization, a process in which you become a United States citizen. You've filled out all the paperwork, passed the tests with flying colors, and breezed through your interview. There's only one step left: you must swear the Oath of Allegiance to the United States in a formal ceremony. Then you will receive your Certificate of Naturalization and finally be a citizen of the United States of America.

Before you take the Oath, however, you should know exactly what you are promising. First, you must understand exactly what an oath is. When you take an oath, you make a solemn promise with God as your witness that you are speaking the truth and that you will fulfill whatever commitments you make.

Let's begin with the full text of the US Oath of Allegiance:

I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.

Now let's take a closer look at the Oath section by section.

Renunciation in the Oath

In the first part of the Oath, you reject the past when you say, 'I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen...'

With this statement, you are letting go of any loyalties you have to previous countries, governments, and rulers. You must do so completely without looking back or hesitating. The words 'renounce' and 'abjure' add solemnity to your promise, for they are formal words that indicate you are voluntarily giving up when you previously had. In this part of the Oath, you also renounce any hereditary titles of nobility.

Defending the Constitution in the Oath

In the next section of the Oath, you make a statement of loyalty to your new country when you say, 'I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same...'

Notice that you are promising to accept and defend the US Constitution, which is the written document that stands as the highest law in the country, rather than any particular ruler. You also swear to uphold the laws of the country and to defend the Constitution and these laws against all enemies whether they come from home or abroad. You will do this with true faith (i.e., you really believe that the Constitution and laws are good things) and with allegiance (i.e., complete loyalty).

Service of Country in the Oath

Now it's time to prove your commitment to your new country through action. In the next part of the Oath you promise '...that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law...'

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