We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. These words were accepted by our Continental Congress 244 days ago today and no words have ever been more important.
I know that this document is being questioned today, even the essence of our very nature, especially the idea of freedom and equality. The men who wrote this were men, unperfected and flawed. However, let me suggest that this document is so much more than a mere declaration of freedom. It gave us a goal to strive for, something for us to attempt to live up to. It has taken a long time, maybe even too long, but if we can continue to work towards that goal, then this document deserves all the honor we can give it. In the 1860s, we fought a war that cost of the lives of almost 700,000 men to help make the Declaration a reality. From that point till the 1920s women fought for the right to be included. In the 1960s, Civil Rights workers continued to demand those words be applied to them. If Black Lives Matter is what is needed to move us even further along the road to All Men are Created Equal then I fully embrace it as the next step along the journey to create a more perfect union.
I also believe that this document created the greatest nation in the world, not perfect, but the greatest. Now in its hour of need we need to support it, not tear it down. From the time of its conception we have been a shining beacon to the world. Millions of immigrants have flocked to its shores in search of a better life. Tony Blair once said, “”A simple way to take measure of a country is to look at how many want in. And how many want out.”
I suggest we stop following slogans that divide us like “Make America Great Again” or “America was never Great to Begin With.” Both of these are wrong. America has always been great since its birth. The entire world practiced slavery in 1776. I would have loved if the Founders had declared the slaves free, but they could not make that extreme jump, not yet. Instead they set up a nation and gave us a goal to continue to work towards our betterment.
As we are in the midst of a great cultural war for the soul of America, may I paraphrase the words of Abraham Lincoln, “Our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” We are now engaged in this new battle for the soul of our nation, to test whether that nation can endure. I believe we can if we work together. Jefferson wrote, “And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.” Let us once again make this pledge as Americans. Not as White Americans and Black Americans, but as Americans. Let us not tear down what has taken us 250 years to build. Let us embrace what is exceptional about this nation while we continue to improve what is not. As Frederick Douglas said, “”I have said that the Declaration of Independence is the ring-bolt to the chain of your nation’s destiny; so, indeed, I regard it. The principles contained in that instrument are saving principles. Stand by those principles, be true to them on all occasions, in all places, against all foes, and at whatever cost.”
Happy 4th of July to everyone