Bold Ideas Penned by Imperfect Men

Today we celebrate Independence Day in America. On this day in 1776, Congress officially declared American independence from Great Britain by means of the Declaration of Independence – a document as important as any other penned in the entire history of humanity. I reread the Declaration this last weekend and was again amazed by the ideals described therein. Life. Liberty. The pursuit of happiness. Natural rights. Equality. Just institutions of government. Bold ideas combined with eloquence that changed the world forever.

Yet by today’s standards, America’s founding lacked political correctness. In 21st century America, diversity is a must – and many are quick to point out the lack of diversity among America’s founders. It’s true: America’s founders were all men who – to my knowledge – all identified as such. They were all white. They were rich. They were influenced by Christian morality. Where were the women? The transgender? The minorities? The disabled? The poor? The Muslim, Jewish, and atheist?

And worse yet, what about the hypocrisy of America’s founders who owned slaves? How could those men possibly proclaim self-evident truths like “all men are created equal” and that “they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights” like life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness – all while enslaving other human beings?

There’s no question: those men who penned the bold, eloquent ideas in the Declaration of Independence were flawed human beings. And while it’s generally inadvisable to impose today’s social norms upon historical events, there’s also no reason to bury our 21st century American heads when it comes to our founders’ imperfections. In fact, I suggest that quite the opposite is true: not only is it acceptable to openly recognize the imperfections of America’s founding and founders, it’s actually very important for us to do so – because there is still work to be done to realize our founders’ vision for America.

Casting a Virtuous Vision for America’s Future

I recognize that America’s founders were good leaders. In current times and throughout history, good leaders recognize their days’ broken circumstances, but they don’t settle for them. Rather, good leaders envision something new and something better for the future – and they labor and lead others day-in and day-out to realize their visions for a better tomorrow.

In that spirit, America’s founders expressed their bold, eloquent ideals in the Declaration of Independence not because their generation had already achieved the ideals they penned, but rather because the founders agreed that such ideals were worth striving for in America’s future.

Accordingly, our mission as 21st century Americans must not be to uphold the society which our founders achieved, but rather to continue in our ever renewing efforts to build the free, just, peaceful, loving, and prosperous nation which our founders envisioned nearly 250 years ago.

In other words, we ourselves, in every generation, must evaluate the ideals described in the Declaration of Independence and evaluate their virtue – despite the personal and social imperfections of those men who originally penned them.

Advancing American Ideals

Are the ideals described in the Declaration of Independence worth striving for? I suggest they are. Here are a few of my thoughts regarding those ideals for our nation today.

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