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.
What a turning point in history this statement was on the first Fourth of July 233 years ago. Yet this bold ideal was proclaimed long in advance of any practical chance of fulfillment. The author of these words was an owner of African slaves. Nobody at the time worried whether “men” was a generic term that also included “women.” Nor did anyone give any thought to whether it applied to people known at the time by words like “barbarians” and “savages.” Yet it worked pragmatically in the long run as an ideal that reformers could appeal to again and again.
So 87 years later, another eloquent writer and speaker could appeal to these words to fight for the end of slavery in the United States:
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure.
And slavery did indeed end, yet legal equality for African-Americans did not arrive. So 100 years later, another great American would say:
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal."
And thanks to the efforts of the civil rights movement he led, African-Americans achieved legal equality.
“Created equal” is a principle yet to be accepted in most of the world, which perhaps has a lot to do with why most of the world is still not developed. Inequality of rights between elites and majorities, between ethnic and religious groups, between men and women is pervasive. But perhaps we can hope that this ideal still serves as a beacon that crusaders continue to cite in their ongoing struggle for the dignity and rights of every man and woman.