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Why a county councilwoman was sworn into office on a Dr. Seuss book

WASHINGTON — A newly elected official and single mother of two wanted her kids to walk away from her swearing-in with an empowering message. So instead of placing her hand on a Bible to take her oath of office as councilwoman for St. Louis County, Missouri, Kelli Dunaway chose ‘‘Oh, the Places You’ll Go!’’ by Dr. Seuss.

Her 5-year-old son, Liam, and her 7-year-old daughter, Bella, held the book in their hands as their smiling mother was sworn into office Aug. 13.

It was a choice with personal meaning. Dunaway said her single mom was a coal miner who would say if she believed in herself and worked hard, Dunaway could achieve anything.


‘‘In my experience in life, that’s been true,’’ the graduate of the University of California Los Angeles Law School said.

When Dunaway, a former Barack Obama field organizer, became pregnant with her daughter in 2012, she was looking for books that offered the same inspiration as her mother’s advice. ‘‘Oh, the Places You’ll Go!’’ was the book.

Dunaway said she’s seen a mixed bag of responses, including those who are inspired by her making her own tradition to those who question whether she takes her role seriously.

‘‘I understand it,’’ she said. ‘‘A lot of people believe that without God, there can be no morality, and I just don’t agree with that.’’

Politicians are not required to be sworn in using the Bible. Article VI of the Constitution says that ‘‘no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.’’

washington post