Archives Experience Newsletter - April 26, 2022
Ode To AOTUS
David Ferriero is retiring at the end of this week, closing out a 12-year term as the Archivist of the United States – the head of our nation’s record-keeper. David is the 10th Archivist and also holds the title of second-longest serving archivist.
For my nearly nine-year tenure, David has been a collaborator, a sounding board, and a constant champion of the Foundation’s work. There are so many projects and fond memories we share and have been reflecting on — from flipping pancakes at our always popular Sleepovers to incredible conversations during our Records of Achievement ceremonies. On behalf of the Foundation Board, staff, members, and donors, we are grateful for your service to the nation. THANK YOU!
As Archivist, he was a staunch supporter of our Archives Store. Not only was he the best looking sock model we could ask for, he was also a frequent customer. As a tribute to his tenure, we are highlighting all things AOTUS.
National Archives Foundation
A Long-Standing Oath
When David Ferriero raised his right hand before Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer on November 13, 2009, and took the oath of office that installed him as the Archivist of the United States, he repeated this oath: “I, [name], do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.”
All employees of the U.S. government take this same oath before assuming their duties. It was inspired by the oath that George Washington composed for his soldiers to take during the winter at Valley Forge. Concerned about the potential influence of the British Crown on his troops, the General wrote an oath that specifically rejected King George the Third, his heirs, and his supporters, and pledged fidelity to the new nation. You can read the original Valley Forge oaths, like Alexander Hamilton’s. Ironically, you can also view Benedict Arnold’s oath.
David S. Ferriero, the tenth Archivist of the United States (AOTUS), has been interested in government and politics from a very early age. He wrote his first letter to an American President, Dwight D. Eisenhower, when he was fourteen to express his admiration and request a photograph; his second to President John F. Kennedy when he was a sophomore in high school to tell JFK he was interested in learning about the Peace Corps; and one to President Lyndon B. Johnson to congratulate him for passing Kennedy’s Civil Rights Act in 1964. Little did he know at the time that one day, these communications would be archived by the very agency he would preside over. History does indeed come full circle!
Promises Rarely Kept
David Ferriero has been the Archivist of the United States for twelve years, but his interest in history and the documents that underpin it began in his childhood. Among the documents he finds most significant are the treaties with Indian tribes that the National Archives preserves in its holdings.
“As a kid who spent Saturday mornings combing the shore of a neighborhood lake for arrowheads,” Ferriero explains, “the almost 400 treaties with Indian nations are among the most meaningful to me. And they are among the saddest records in our holdings. These documents, which have been digitized thanks to the generosity of an anonymous donor, record the promises made by our government to the Indian nations in exchange for land and water rights–promises rarely kept. We are often visited by tribal lawyers and elders to read the original documents, often the basis of legal cases that are still being brought by the tribes. Our records capture the high points and the low points of our history and these are among the lowest.”
The Indigenous Digital Archive gives you access to 374 of the treaties entered into with indigenous nations on the North American continent since 1722, well before the founding of the United States. You can search the archive by treaty, cession, tribe, and place. The latter allows you to enter a zip code and learn which treaties related to that area.
Civic Corner: What Now?
The Archivist of the United States leads the National Archives and Records Administration, the nonpartisan federal agency that is the custodian of the nation’s essential legal and historical records. The “nonpartisan” portion of this description is important—it means that regardless of what political party is in power at the moment, the interests of the nation as a whole will be paramount to the Archives’ mission at all times.
When David Ferriero steps down as Archivist, Deb Wall, current deputy AOTUS, will assume the job of acting AOTUS while the search for a permanent Archivist begins. The search will continue until an appropriate candidate is identified. The Archivist, like other cabinet-level appointees, goes through a Senate confirmation process and a vote before they can assume the office. In the meantime, we can all rest assured that the mission of the National Archives will continue to be carried out with fidelity and rigor.
Think you could be up for the job one day? Read more about what the Archivist, and other employees at NARA, do. If you’ve already memorized all of your Presidents and Vice Presidents, try your hand at learning the Archivists. There are only 10!
The Perfect Pair!
David Ferriero is not just a history buff—he is also a fashionista! Every fall since his installation, he has spoken at the National Archives Foundation’s Gala, and before the event, he has stopped by the store and picked out different history socks. His love of fun, historical socks is then shown off during his speech, as he shows the audience the pair he’s sporting for the Black-tie event.
Archivist of the United States does his holiday shopping at the National Archives Store
(2 minutes 9 seconds)
Source: NARA YouTube Channel