I read the Declaration of Independence every year on this day, partly because I'm a geek but mostly because it is important and because it reminds us how we got here.
The opening statements are profound. The full text can be read here.
IN CONGRESS, JULY 4, 1776The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of Americahen in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
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, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.
All equal. That's what the document says. This is the document whereby the Founding Fathers announced to the world that they believed in the right of self-governance and self-determination. They put the words in writing, advising all and sundry that life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness was worth rebellion and death to achieve.
These truths are self-evident, they said. We are all equal and we will fight for these rights we hold dear, they declared.
For me, today, this means that I don't force my ideals onto you. And I expect and require that you don't force your ideals onto me. For me it means that we shall recognize that no one way is best for all, but that we shall work together to find the common ground, and seek compromise so that none suffer under the tyranny of the majority or the tyranny of the minority.
I will move through my life with respect for you. And I expect and require that you will do the same. It is our duty as citizens of this nation to exercise our freedoms with honor and in full understanding of what these freedoms cost.
This is my document, written for me by men like me who felt as I do. Across the years I remember that they set in motion the events that let me live a free life. It is not a perfect life, nor is this a perfect country. But it is my country, and this is my document, and this is my freedom and my liberty.
And it is your document. It is our document. This is our country.
"We hold these truths to be self-evident..." led us to "We the people..."