There is a claim that has been repeated more and more over the years: that America was born as an illegitimate, repressive nation; that our country is inherently flawed beyond repair; and that the Constitution must be thrown out so our nation can be torn down and rebuilt all over again.
That’s exactly why we are seeing efforts to destroy symbols of our country’s past—including symbols representing some of the progress our nation has made in the years since its founding.
We’ve seen statues of Thomas Jefferson and George Washington destroyed in Portland. The Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. was sprayed with graffiti, despite the fact that Abraham Lincoln led the nation in an effort to end slavery. A statue of Ulysses S. Grant, the general who successfully defeated the Confederacy, was toppled in San Francisco. Even memorials honoring abolitionists were defaced in Philadelphia.
We’re now told that America was born in shame, and it must be torn apart so that a new society, a new government, a new culture can rise in its place.
But I want to offer a different perspective.
I’ll start by acknowledging this: America was not born as a perfect nation. And it’s not a perfect nation now.
But if we can acknowledge America’s imperfections, then we can begin to correctly understand America’s founding.
Our nation was founded on three fundamental principles:
- All men are created equal.
- We are endowed by our Creator with inalienable rights.
- Just governments are based on the consent of the governed.
These principles were laid out in the Declaration of Independence and were the foundation upon which the Articles of Confederation and eventually the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights were established.
Did we live up to these principles at the time of the founding? No. Do we live up to them now? Still no.
So, what does that mean? Because we did not live up to the ideals of the Declaration and the Constitution at the time they were established, does that mean they should be tossed aside? Because we continue to struggle to live up to these principles today, should we abandon them?
I explored these questions in a recent speech, delivered to the graduates of Patrick Henry College as well as the attendees at ADF’s Blackstone Legal Fellowship this summer.
Please watch and consider whether the ideals of our founding have a place in our nation moving forward.
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