Somewhere along the line today, take a break from the festivities and remind yourself what we’re actually celebrating here in America — the signing of America’s founding document 239 years ago. Drafted by Thomas Jefferson, The Declaration of Independence remains perhaps the best statement of our country’s aspirations. And after the Supreme Court’s recent Obergefell v. Hodges decision, many would say that the document — proclaiming that “all men are created equal” and have inalienable rights, “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” — feels more alive than it has for some time. But no matter where you sit on the political spectrum, it’s helpful to return to The Declaration and its core principles. You can read the opening lines below, and the full text here.
Above, we have some very recognizable Hollywood celebs (including eight Oscar winners) reading The Declaration. (Beneath it, we’ve included a grainier version that features a nice preface by Morgan Freeman). For the sake of making this worthwhile, pretend it isn’t the infamous Mel Gibson reading the very first lines.
When 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.
Dan Colman is the founder/editor of Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus and LinkedIn and share intelligent media with your friends. Or better yet, sign up for our daily email and get a daily dose of Open Culture in your inbox.