"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are crated equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and pursuit of Happiness."
Those simple words are our starting point as Americans; they describe not only the foundation of our government but the substance of our common creed. Not every American may be able to recite them; few, if asked, could trace the genesis of the Declaration of Independence to its roots in eighteenth-century liberal and republican thought. But the essential idea behind the Declaration-- that we are born into this world free, all of us; that each of us arrives with a bundle of rights that can't be taken away by any person or any state without just cause; that through our own agency we can, and must, make our lives what we will-- is one that every American understands. It orients us, sets our course, each and every day.
Indeed, the value of individual freedom is so deeply ingrained in us that we tend to take it for granted. It is easy to forget that at the time of our nation's founding this idea was entirely radical in its implications, as radical as Martin Luther's posting on the church door. It is an idea that some portion of the world rejects- and for which an even larger portion of humanity finds scant evidence in their daily lives
-Barack Obama, from The Audacity of Hope