“Don’t tell me that words don’t matter. ‘I have a dream.’ Just words? ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’ Just words? ‘We have nothing to fear but fear itself.’ Just words?”
– Barack Obama, in 2008, countering Hillary Clinton’s criticism of his campaign
Candidate Obama reminded us eloquently of the importance, power and meaning of words.
And few words are more important, powerful and meaningful than those of this country’s founders.
Some of our favorite phrases from those documents include:
From the Declaration of Independence:
• “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...”
• “… with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”
From the Constitution:
• “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity …”
And, of course, the First Amendment – which is perhaps the most important written passage in human history, as it contains the most urgent, basic and sweeping of human rights:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
As the man said, words do matter. And no words in secular society matter more than our founding documents and the body of law that has grown up around them.
This country was founded on the rule of law, not men. So words – the words of the Constitution and of our laws – matter. A country founded on words, and not on ethnicity or the force of a ruler, must respect and adhere to those words.
You cannot understand America otherwise.
Nor can the country endure without it.