“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. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”
Reading those words today, I realize how much I take them for granted. These were some very forward-thinking ideas in 1776. “Created equal?” “From the consent of the governed?” Bold new ideas. Too bold to be adopted all at once, I guess.
Considering that one of the passages edited from Jefferson’s original Declaration of Independence was a denunciation of the slave trade, the whole “created equal…life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” thing was apparently something we needed to grow into over time. The main guarantee of our most basic rights had to be added to our Constitution as an appendix, an afterthought, to make it more acceptable to the people.
Our founding fathers signed these ideals into our imagination, but it was the ordinary American people who fought, bled, and died to scratch out each inch of progress our country has made toward putting those ideals into practice. Slaves, women, children, immigrants, poor people, had to be added to the list of those “men” who are “created equal.” To me, patriots are all those people, most of them ordinary folks like you and me, who stuck their necks out to expand, protect, and realize those ideals for everybody. Without exception.
I look at my African-American children and give great thanks for those patriots who have made it possible for our family to walk into a rib joint in East Texas with only a few funny looks. I am thankful to live in country where we have realized a large part of those original ideals. More than any other country I know of. Truly we are blessed to be American.
But I also hope for a future where those ideals are fully realized for all.