Monday, July 6, 2009


John McCain delivered the weekly Republican address (I didn’t even realize there was one) on the Fourth of July. Reading his words, I really, really wish he was President. I know Obama is nuanced and careful and so on and so forth but I sincerely believe there are times when and issues about which the United States simply has to take a stand. McCain’s words on Iran take that stand and I appreciate them.

Another part of his address caught my attention also:

The signers put their names and ransomed their lives to a universal, not just a national ideal; that all human beings everywhere, not just Americans, not just the mostly well-off white men gathered in Philadelphia for the occasion, 'are created equal, and endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.'

We've not always been true to that ideal, and the rights guaranteed by our Constitution. Slavery, Jim Crow, the disenfranchisement of women were betrayals of the principles enshrined in our founding documents, and had to be conquered before we could claim without qualification to be firmly on the right side of history. But we overcame our faults, corrected our mistakes and in the unfinished story of our Republic, we continue our progress toward 'a more perfect union.' And, in the struggle to do so, we have achieved greatness.

This echoes something I have long believed. The United States as we know it began with the utterance of the words:

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.

When this was written, the “men” who were created equal were a select group: wealthy, white, and literally men. The history of the United States has been the slow but steady redefinition of the word “men” to include those who are not wealthy, those who are not white, and those who are not male. To, in other words, make “all” the reality.

Those who founded this country did not believe they were forming an absolutely perfect Union, simply one more perfect than before. It is easy to point out their faults and flaws, their weaknesses and failures. But they did the best they could in their time and that was far, far better than anyone had done before or has done since. Their wisdom and their courage gave us a country, a Constitution, and a set of ideals that have allowed us, down through all these years, to make our Union more perfect still. For that I am deeply grateful.

Here’s to the next 233 years.

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