Our opinion: Celebrating equality

“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.”

Today, we celebrate the 238th anniversary of the ratification of the document containing those words.

We’ll do that with parades, picnics and other more frivolous “pursuits of happiness.”

Most people simply consider this holiday our nation’s birthday. It is, of course, but more than that, it should be a celebration of that basic statement of human rights that appears at the beginning of this piece and near the top of the document we know as the Declaration of Independence. Thomas Jefferson wrote those words, drawing on his study of a British philospher named John Locke, who had championed the idea of natural rights many years prior.

The “truths” Jefferson noted are based on the idea that governments cannot impart basic rights, they can only take them away. The government our founding fathers envisioned years before writing a constitution would be established to make sure that didn’t happen.

The equal protection of those rights has evolved over the last two centuries, and continues to evolve today, as the world’s model for freedom and equality hones its fulfillment of that promise.

Enjoy today. Enjoy the parade, the picnics and all the rest of it.

And be proud and thankful that a handful of patriots, meeting in Philadelphia, had the courage to sign a document that concluded with this statement: “And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.”