We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal…” -The Declaration of Independence, 1776
“We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men and women are created equal….” -The Declaration of Sentiments, Seneca Falls Woman’s Rights Convention, 1848
“When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”– Martin Luther King, Jr., 1963
“Our style and manner of thinking have undergone a revolution more extraordinary than the political revolution of a country. We see with other eyes; we hear with other ears; and think with other thoughts, than those we formerly used.” – Thomas Paine
“All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident. - Arthur Schopenhauer
This week, as we celebrate America’s Revolution that led to our country’s freedom and independence, let’s remember that the Declaration of Independence didn’t occur because of one tea party or a single battle, and that the American Revolution continues to this day. The American Revolution is incremental and never-ending.
Tomorrow, during the same week that we will celebrate the founding of our country, all eyes will be on the U.S. women’s soccer team, the defending World Cup champions, when they play England in the World Cup semifinals. Their 2-1 victory over France set a record for the most-watched Women's World Cup quarterfinal match in history.
The USA team was built by women who were unafraid to challenge the establishment. The 1999 World Cup winning team helped found the world’s first professional women’s soccer league, WUSA, and they took a pay cut to keep it alive.
20 years later, the 2019 U.S. Women’s Soccer Team’s unity and dominance on the field, the American pride and patriotism they engender, and their inspiring fight for equal pay for equal work 171 years after the Seneca Falls Woman’s Rights Convention, and for LGBT rights 50 years after the Stonewall riots, are fresh reminders that despite the brilliance and vision of our founding fathers, these well-intended white men (yes, most were lawyers) got some things very wrong in the harsh light of history.
No mention of equal rights for women, no mention of equal rights for all people regardless of skin color or ethnic and cultural origin, and no mention of equal rights for all people regardless of sexual orientation, in the 1776 Declaration of Independence.
Striving for freedom, liberty, and equality in a democracy is never a done deal. American democracy has been a work in progress for over 240 years.
That’s why, thanks to historic leaders like Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott, who organized the Seneca Falls Convention, civil rights leaders like Frederick Douglas, Abraham Lincoln, and Martin Luther King, Jr., and modern day leaders like the women on the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team, it is now accepted as self-evident that all men and women are created equal.
But let’s never forget that before equality was accepted by most Americans as self-evident, equality for all men and women was ridiculed and violently opposed.
As we celebrate the founding of our country, we should never forget that the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution are not static documents. They require the constant attention and diligence of all our citizens. Every week, the enduring documents that served as the foundation for our nation, are being tested.
At the end of the Constitutional Convention of 1787, a woman asked Benjamin Franklin if our new nation was to be a republic or monarchy. “A republic, if you can keep it,” Franklin replied. The story of America is our continuing challenge and obligation to “keep it.”
Independence Day commemorates the breaking free from the tyranny and arrogant rule of the British Crown. So, in a sense, the Declaration of Independence is also a declaration of humility.
Our country’s greatest strength is our humility – our recognition and self-awareness that sometimes America gets it wrong, and that the only way to keep our republic is not to default on our promissory note -our promise to admit and correct our mistakes and always strive to get it right.
This Week’s Monday Moment: U.S. Women's Soccer Team Star Abby Wambach's Barnard Commencement Address
Have a great day. Have a great week.
For copies of past messages, please go to this link: Monday Morning Messages.
My views in all my Monday Morning Messages are my personal views alone and do not reflect the views of our law school or our university.