This week on “Moyers and Company,” host Bill Moyers reminded us that July 4 is approaching and asked Americans to take the time this year to read one of our nation’s founding documents.
The moment Congress ratified the Declaration of Independence, messengers on horseback were dispatched to all 13 colonies so that it could be to cheering crowds, Moyers said. It was a document that was meant to be read out loud, and many of its truths still ring true today.
Moyers urged Americans to take time to read the Declaration of Independence this July 4, either privately to themselves or aloud with a group.
“The founders surely knew,” Moyers said, “that when they let these ideas loose in the world, they could never again be caged.”
Critics of the new nation, still loyal to England, greeted the document with derision, pointing out the hypocrisy of declaring that all men are created equal, and yet the nascent federation of states still allowed slavery. The Declaration’s author, Thomas Jefferson, himself a slave-owning nobleman, acknowledged that slavery was an institution that degraded both slave and master, and yet refused to financially cripple himself by giving up his own stocks of slaves.
Moyers calls it “the pathology of white superiority that attended the birth of our nation.” Jefferson, he said, got it right when he wrote about “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness as the core of our human aspirations,” but he denied these liberties to others on the basis of their race.
In this way, Jefferson embodies “the oldest and longest battle of all,” Moyers asserted, “the battle of the self with the truth, between what we know, and how we live.”
Read the Declaration of Independence here.
Watch this video, embedded via Moyers and Company, below: