But the continuing success of American democracy depends on the degree to which each new generation, native-born and immigrant, makes its own the moral truths on which the Founding Fathers staked the future of your Republic. Their commitment to build a free society with liberty and justice for all must be constantly renewed if the United States is to fulfill the destiny to which the Founders pledged their “lives . . . fortunes . . . and sacred honor.
Saint John Paul II, December 16, 1997
A good way to observe the Fourth of July is to read aloud the Declaration of Independence. My family has done that for years. The Declaration is not an historical artifact to be mentioned in passing in forgettable speeches once a year. It is the most radical document ever to issue from the pen of Man:
- Rights derive from God and are unalienable.
- That to secure these rights governments are instituted among men.
- Governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed.
- All men are created equal.
- That the people have a right to overthrow a government that is becoming a despotism.
These words, as a cursory glance around the world reveals, remain just as revolutionary and controversial today as when Mr. Jefferson wrote them two hundred and forty years ago. His words are not meant to be worshiped, but rather to be argued about and debated. It is common to date the end of the American Revolution to 1783. Not so, not so. That is when Britain recognized the independence of the United States. However, the Revolution itself, as articulated in the Declaration of Independence, is an ongoing proposition, and each day it has defeats and victories, and the outcome of that Revolution is still very much in doubt. It is up to each of us, by our actions today, to determine whether the vision of the Founding Fathers is a true one or not.