“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men were created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Introduction to the Declaration of Independence. July 4th, 1776
The founding fathers led by Thomas Jefferson wrote and agreed to the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia, PA. This was a voluntary agreement among individuals to develop an organized society where rights, security and protections were set forth and promised to be protected. However, it was written during much simpler times when being equal meant owning land, growing food and running a farm or business to support family, and generally being free to choose what to do and when do it. Slavery was the primary contradiction to the ideas written in this document and this passage about equality, life liberty and pursuit of happiness, since African Americans received no such respect and had no right to property, security or protection.
Today, we are living in a world where inequality continues to exist. The stories behind US history are different now, but people of our time continue to fight for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and some are still coming up short on realizing success. This inequality is caused by bigotry, ignorance and hatred for anyone who may look, think, behave or believe differently. Those who participate in these negative acts are countries, leaders, politicians, employers, insurance companies and on down the line, and include they anyone who is infested with intolerance, greed or hateful tactics in order to get their own way in life. Unfortunately, not much has changed about the basic downside of human nature. We like our common perfect ideas but we live in our common imperfect reality. While minorities and women, have been able to make great strides in equality, there are still imperfections but if we are honest we can admit that our history is one of progress.
Thomas Jefferson understood very well what life, liberty and pursuit of happiness meant to slaves, since he owned slaves. While Jefferson knew it was wrong, he also knew that it was an accepted everyday practice by gentlemen of the time and in order to run his own property, Monticello. Unfortunately, the beautiful words he and his founding fathers wrote, were more simplified and relevant to a small group of American men in 1776 than they are to the complicated issues of achieving life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness in today’s world.