Sarasota News Leader

07/04/2013

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Sarasota News Leader July 4, 2013 OPINION not mean to say all men were equal in color, size, intellect, moral development, or social capacity. They defined with tolerable distinctness in what they did consider all men created equal — equal in 'certain inalienable rights, among which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.' This they said, and this they meant. They did not mean to assert the obvious untruth that all were then actually enjoying that equality, or yet that they were about to confer it immediately upon them. In fact, they had no power to confer such a boon. They meant simply to declare the right, so that the enforcement of it might follow as fast as circumstances should permit. They meant to set up a standard maxim for free society which should be familiar to all, constantly looked to, constantly labored for, and even, though never perfectly attained, constantly approximated, and thereby constantly spreading and deepening its influence, and augmenting the happiness and value of life to all people, of all colors, everywhere." Page 62 ards of the legacy of those who birthed this nation. Our Founding Fathers acknowledged a divine gift that conferred equality upon humanity. They further gave to every succeeding generation the sacred duty of bringing that stated promise of equality closer and closer to reality. Eighty-seven years later, when Lincoln stood on ground that was witness to such bloody conflict only months earlier, he observed that continuing challenge. In paying tribute to the dead, he said, "It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced." Ironically, almost exactly a century later, Martin Luther King Jr. would use the same arguments to advance the cause of equal rights for African-Americans: "When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every tenement and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join Were one to modify Lincoln's gender specific hands and sing in the words of the old spirilanguage — as he doubtless would do if he tual, 'Free at last, free at last. Thank God Alwere making the same statement today — it mighty, we are free at last.'" becomes obvious that the struggle for equality in this country continues because we have not And now, a half-century after King uttered been good students of history or good stew- those words, this nation still struggles to It is remarkable that, 155 years later, many in this country are reluctant to share that enlightened view of our Founding Fathers' intent in wording the Declaration of Independence as they did.

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