Thursday, July 8, 2010

Proclaim Liberty July 8, 1776 & 2010

Proclaim LIBERTY throughout all the Land unto all the Inhabitants thereof ...thus begins the inscription of one of the America's favorite icons. Visiting the bell again a few months ago I was struck by all the languages and cultures that were swirling around the bell in its museum across from Independence Hall. As I snapped this picture, I realized what an important symbol this is, whether the many myths about it are true or not.

On July 8, 1776, so the story goes, the bell which hung in the tower you can see in the background, rang out for the first time to summon the people to hear the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence. Imagine yourself standing there in front of what was then the Pennsylvania State was hazy, hot, and humid...they you heard those inspiring words for the first time...

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.

Even when we're not living up to them, this is the essence of who we want and strive to be.

The insurgents who had been meeting as the Continental Congress had signed this declaration and were officially in rebellion against the established government. This wasn't some lame manifesto with more slogans than substance. The signers were committing treason and were ready to put it all on the line...Listen to how they closed it:

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.

In the end, it really doesn't matter whether the bell was actually hanging in the crumbling tower...What does matter is that both the signers and the people knew that they were declaring LIBERTY. At that moment, every person in the colonies had to make a choice...were they with the rebels or with the King? For many, this was a wrenching choice and it tore many families apart. Ben Franklin's own son sided with the British and they never spoke again.

If you haven't read the Declaration since high school, take a look and read it today, hearing it fresh for the first it to your kids and grandkids...suggest your friends read it.

As you do, let those words sink in...all men are created equal...Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness...we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.

Whether you're a Republican, Democrat, Independent, Libertarian, Tea Partier, Green Partier, something else or nothing...Ask yourself a few of questions:
  • Are you really Behaving as if all people are created equal?
  • Are you really Behaving honorably?
  • Are you really Behaving as if Liberty for everyone is what it's all about?
The Declaration's signers left us many traditions and, as I wrote in my last blog, one was for contentious debate. What I want to suggest is that we don't need to venerate that tradition. If we're really being faithful to our best traditions -- our ideals -- our guiding values -- then we'll recognize that the Declaration is for all of us, no matter what our political persuasion; that those who believe differently from us have the LIBERTY to do so; that when we demonize our opposition and claim a 100% lock on the truth, we are violating the sacred trust the founders passed down to us.

Enjoy the 234th anniversary of that first reading of the Declaration -- enjoy reading it again yourself -- and treat your fellow humans a little better.
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(c) Rebecca Staton-Reinstein, President, Advantage Leadership, Inc.
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