Some Democratic Words for July 4

From Thomas Paine’s pamphlet “Common Sense” and Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence to FDR’s “Four Freedoms” and MLK’s “I Have a Dream” speeches, democratic words have inspired us to make America freer, more equal, and more democratic. Hoping that they continue to inspire and encourage progressive action, I offer the following quotes for your consideration this coming July 4th week.

Please add your own quotes and words to the roster – and use them to toast the American Revolution – not only the Revolution of 1776, but also the continuing revolution that is America – the revolution we must sustain!

Remember, we progressives have the task of making America truly exceptional.

We have it in our power to begin the world over again. – Thomas Paine, Common Sense (1776)

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. – The Declaration of Independence (July 4, 1776)

We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general welfare, and securing the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity… Preamble to the Constitution (1787)

We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men and women are created equal… – Elizabeth Cady Stanton et al, The Declaration of Sentiments, Seneca Falls 1848

[T]hat this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom; and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from this earth. – Abraham Lincoln, The Gettysburg Address (1863)

The price of liberty is something more than eternal vigilance. There must also be eternal advance. We can save the rights we have inherited from our fathers only by winning new ones to bequeath our children. – Henry Demarest Lloyd, “The Divinity of Humanity” (1894)

When I, the People, learn to remember, when I, the People, use the lessons of yesterday and no longer forget who robbed me last year, who played me for a fool – then there will be no speaker in all the world say the name “The People” with any fleck of a sneer in his voice or any far-off smile of derision. – Carl Sandburg, Chicago Poems, I AM THE PEOPLE, THE MOB (1910)

A true patriotism urges us to build an even more substantial America where the good things of life may be shared by more of us, where the social injustices will not be encouraged to flourish. – Franklin Delano Roosevelt, World War I Memorial Dedication in St. Louis (1936)

These economic royalists complain that we seek to overthrow the institutions of America. What they really complain of is that we seek to take away their power. Our allegiance to American institutions requires the overthrow of this kind of power.Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Accepting the Democratic Party Nomination 1936

Freedom is never given. It is won. – A. Philip Randolph, “The Crisis of the Negro and the Constitution” (1937)

Believe – America is promises to – Take! // America is promises to – Us – To take them – Brutally – With love but – Take Them. // Oh believe this! – Archibald Macleish, America was Promises (1939)

Equality before the law; Equality of Education; Equality of opportunity to earn a living; Equality to express oneself and participate in government. – Eleanor Roosevelt, The Moral Basis of Democracy (1940)

We look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms. The first is freedom of speech and expression… The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way… The third is freedom from want… The fourth is freedom from fear. – Franklin Delano Roosevelt, State of the Union Address, January 1941

I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted n the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”Martin Luther King, Jr. at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, August 1963


Harvey J. Kaye is professor of democracy and justice studies at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay and the author of the newly published “The Fight for the Four Freedoms: What Made FDR and the Greatest Generation Truly Great”(Simon & Schuster). Follow him on Twitter: @harveyjkaye.

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