The man who wrote it owned other human beings. The rich Anglo-Saxon males who signed it believed themselves superior to women, Catholics, Jews, other Europeans, Native Americans, blacks, Asians, and poor white males. It contained no development strategy, no announced intention for poverty reduction, and no nation-building Power Point presentation. For many decades afterward, anyone who took it literally would have been seen as crazy.
Yet the principles the Declaration gave in two sentences have done more than anything else for both liberty and development in the 234 years since that day.
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. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.
Happy birthday, Declaration, and thank you.
Because the White House Fellowship draws younger leaders from many different fields--including business, the military, nonprofits, law, and academia, it provides one of the few professional settings where leaders from very different fields regularly work together and build collegial relations. This cross-pollination of leaders makes a huge difference over the long term. For instance, consider the program's impact on fellows' attitudes toward parts of the federal government.
We see that fellows with no military experience express significantly greater confidence in the military after spending a year with a classmate who has a military background, and for each additional class member with a military background, the non-military fellow's level of confidence rises. Levels of support for the military can rise from 54% to 81% among fellows, depending on how many classmates with military backgrounds were in a class. Most significant, that positive attitude toward the military remains over the course of the leader's life, whether that Fellowship contact happened last year or four decades ago.
We contend, and we contend relentlessly, for the dignity of the human person, of every human person, created in the image and likeness of God, destined from eternity for eternity—every human person, no matter how weak or how strong, no matter how young or how old, no matter how productive or how burdensome, no matter how welcome or how inconvenient. Nobody is a nobody; nobody is unwanted. All are wanted by God, and therefore to be respected, protected, and cherished by us.
We shall not weary, we shall not rest, until every unborn child is protected in law and welcomed in life. We shall not weary, we shall not rest, until all the elderly who have run life’s course are protected against despair and abandonment, protected by the rule of law and the bonds of love. We shall not weary, we shall not rest, until every young woman is given the help she needs to recognize the problem of pregnancy as the gift of life. We shall not weary, we shall not rest, as we stand guard at the entrance gates and the exit gates of life, and at every step along way of life, bearing witness in word and deed to the dignity of the human person—of every human person.
Against the encroaching shadows of the culture of death, against forces commanding immense power and wealth, against the perverse doctrine that a woman’s dignity depends upon her right to destroy her child, against what St. Paul calls the principalities and powers of the present time, this convention renews our resolve that we shall not weary, we shall not rest, until the culture of life is reflected in the rule of law and lived in the law of love.