A new Wichita school board member decided against placing his hand on “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” when he took the ceremonial oath of office Monday.
But Ben Blankley positioned that book and two others – “Robert’s Rules of Order” and “Fundamentals of Astrodynamics” – at his place at the board table during the oath as his “personal salute to learning,” he said.
Blankley, who was elected in November to represent District 1 on the school board, had considered several books for his ceremonial swearing-in but ultimately left the titles at the board table during the oath.
Some elected officials swear on a Bible when taking their oath of office, but it is not required.
At the start of Monday’s meeting, Blankley and four other new board members – Julie Hedrick, Ernestine Krehbiel, Stan Reeser and Ron Rosales – simply raised their right hands for the ceremonial oath.
Blankley, who described his spiritual beliefs as “non-commital,” said he started thinking about potential books after watching members of the Wichita City Council take their oaths of office recently.
“This is all new to me, so I wasn’t sure about the protocol or whatever,” Blankley said. “And I have kind of a bizarre sense of humor.”
Over the weekend, he posed a question on his personal Facebook page: “Based on what you know of me, what book would you pick for me to swear on?”
Suggestions included Dr. Seuss’ “One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish,” a nod to Blankley’s 2-year-old son, Antonio, and “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” a comedy science-fiction series by Douglas Adams.
Other suggestions included “A Wrinkle in Time,” a middle school science textbook, “Oh, the Places You’ll Go,” “Trump: The Art of the Deal” and “Make Trouble,” a sly manifesto that director John Waters delivered as a graduation speech in 2015.
“Fundamentals of Astrodynamics,” an engineering textbook, was Blankley’s idea. He is an engineer at Spirit AeroSystems in Wichita.
“That book, among aerospace engineering students, is a favorite for three reasons: It’s easy to read, it’s small, and it’s $20,” he said prior to Monday’s meeting.
“Robert’s Rules of Order” made the final pile, he said, because rules are instrumental to school board business. And “Hitchhiker’s Guide” is one of his favorite books.
Kansas law requires oaths of office to be administered “by laying the right hand upon the Holy Bible, or by the uplifted right hand.”
Sedgwick County Election Commissioner Tabitha Lehman, who administered Monday’s ceremonial oath, said most local officials take their oaths by raising their right hand.
Official oaths are administered in Lehman’s office shortly after votes are certified following an election.
“When people come into our office we don’t provide anything, so it’s just up to them,” Lehman said. “Usually people just raise their hand.”