As I have for many years now, I began my July 4th by reading the Declaration of Independence. This year, instead of reading a transcription on a website, I printed a replica from Wikipedia and read a copy in the handwritten script as it appeared in 1776. It was a fascinating exercise and I recommend it to everyone.
When I first began my annual July 4th ritual, the Declaration seemed like a cool historic document, but otherwise I didn’t expect it to be relevant to my 21st century life. After all, the words are almost 250 years old. What practical substance could a 250-year-old document have? I didn’t expect to even understand the archaic language, let alone find something meaningful for me in the 2000s. How wrong was I! Each year, I’ve been surprised by how easy it is to understand the language and how relevant many of the words remain today. That said, the Declaration is not perfect, especially through the lens of the 21st century. Times have changed since 1776 and there are parts of the Declaration that clearly do not resonate by today’s standards. Read it for yourself.
Its imperfections notwithstanding, the Declaration makes statements that are important to remember today. We’ve heard it a thousand times, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal…” These powerful words form the core principles that led to the formation of one government from 13 colonies, one “united States” as it is written in the Declaration. Of course, if written today, I believe the Declaration would say “everyone” instead of “all men.” The writers of the Declaration were imperfect, so the imperfections of society in 1776 are naturally reflected in the Declaration.
Our society on July 4, 2020, is still imperfect in many ways. Although it is a self-evident truth by today’s standards, “equality for everyone” regardless of race, gender, age, religion, or sexual orientation remains a work in progress. The journey of equality is slow and painful. We still have a long way to go. It will require everyone working together to ultimately realize the dream of equality embodied in 1776, but we’ll get there. We can’t give up. Time favors self-evident truth.