General Mark Milley on an Oath to the Constitution

The following excerpts have been extracted from Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army General Mark Milley’s remarks at Princeton University on May 25, 2022, during Princeton’s ROTC Class of 2022 ceremony. Milley reminded the new officers that the oath they were swearing was the same taken by the president of the United States and others in government, and that the oath was to the Constitution, which he said is, “more than a document — it’s an idea.”

“You’re not taking an oath to a dictator or wannabe dictator, or tyrant, you’re taking an oath to the Constitution of the United States of America.

The idea that you’re willing to die for it, that is an extraordinarily powerful idea. It defeated Britain in the Revolutionary War, the Nazis, Imperial Japanese, brought down the Berlin Wall, defeated Soviet communism, al Qaeda and ISIS, the Taliban and Al Shabaab and all the terrorist groups. They hate this idea.

So many fear it. We have people in this country who fear it. We have people trying to overturn it, right inside our own country. What this idea says is that you and I, no matter who you are, it doesn’t matter. If you’re a male or you’re a female, it doesn’t matter. If you’re gay or you’re straight, or in between … it just doesn’t matter. No matter if you’re black, you’re white, you’re Asian, you’re Indian. None of that matters. Doesn’t matter what the color of your skin is. It doesn’t matter what country you came from. Doesn’t matter your last name or place of origin. Doesn’t matter whether you’re tall or short. None of that matters. Doesn’t matter if you’re rich, poor, went to Princeton or didn’t go to college at all…

What this idea says is that every single one of us is born free and equal. And every single one of us is an American. That you’re going to rise or you’re going to fall based on your perseverance, your hard work, your knowledge, your skills, your attributes. And you’re going to be judged by the content of your character, not the color of your skin. That is the very essence of this idea. That we hold these truths to be self-evident. That we hold these truths to be self-evident that every one of us is equal, that every one of us has a right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. You’re not taking an oath to a person. You’re not taking an oath to a president, a king or a queen. You’re not taking an oath to a dictator or wannabe dictator, or tyrant. You’re taking an oath to the idea that is America. That you will do anything and everything, if necessary to sacrifice even your life, to preserve that idea and pass it on unscathed to the next generation. That is what you’re doing. You’re committing your lives and your fortune to it. And I want to congratulate you. I’m extraordinarily proud of each and every one of you. I know your family is and I know this country is so thank you very much. Thank you.”