A recent Washington Times editorial rightly reminds us to reflect on noble, self-evident truths penned by Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence, "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."
The ignoble realty, however, is that our nation has never fully fulfilled all of these words at any point in our history.
As to equality, neither Jefferson's slaves nor the four million slaves freed through a civil war at a cost of 620,000 lives enjoyed liberty, or even consideration as fully human.
The right to life has fared even worse, with over a million babies losing their right to life every year through abortion on demand.
Even the liberty for which our forebears fought and died faces the threat once again of government tyranny. The current administration would limit our First Amendment faith freedoms, attempting to restrict religious hiring rights, gutting conscience protections for health professionals and imposing an abortion pill mandate on conscientious objectors.
Ubiquitous government spying on our most private communications and the sheer volume of intrusive laws and government regulations has turned the personal pursuit of happiness into an object of government inspection and approval. Moreover, the Framers understood the "pursuit of happiness" to include "every necessary moral ingredient," "religion, morality, and knowledge" and "public instructions in piety, religion and morality." Yet today government programs, civic events and public schools discriminate against virtually any religious notion or expression.
So while we rightly celebrate the noble words of our Declaration of Independence, we also do well to remember that translating those words into reality entails Jefferson's admonition that "eternal vigilance is the price of liberty." That vigilance means that we citizens must watch over and limit our government--not the other way around.