For Us the Living – July 4

Consider the American experiment in democracy as embodied in a thread begun with the words of Thomas Jefferson, echoed once by Abraham Lincoln and again by Martin Luther King.

In the Preamble to the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson wrote: “We hold these truths to be self‑evident that all men are created equal.”  Then, in 1863, Lincoln stood on a Pennsylvania battlefield where there had been 40,000+ casualties over a two day period as a result of Americans killing each other and reminded us that our nation was “conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”

King brought it full circle 100 years later in a most symbolic fashion when he stood on the steps of Lincoln’s very monument and repeated Jefferson’s very words with particular emphasis on the word all.

All three spoke of a sacred belief in a common cultural destiny.  Two of them died for it.  “It is for us the living” to continue to test whether “any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure.” And that testing must apply to all men, all women, and all children.