Let’s Read the Declaration of Independence Together

Sometimes, when we seek the sense and meaning of an important text, it helps to read it aloud, or to hear it read aloud while we read the text. In case it’s useful to you, here I am, reading the Declaration of Independence on Independence Day 2023. I’m not a trained voice actor, as you will see.

At least I have the sense to keep reading, resisting the considerable temptation to stop and comment. So the audio file isn’t hours long; it’s less than ten minutes, including my reading of the signers’ names. (I figure they earned the attention.)

If you’d like to read along with me, here’s a link to the transcription I used at the National Archives.

Here’s the audio.


Photo credit: Dan Mall on Unsplash


David Rodeback - impeachment

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Human Purpose and Identity, the Judeo-Christian Tradition, Independence Day, and the Left

Leftists, who are not the same as liberals, have a natural enemy in the Judeo-Christian tradition of Western culture and government. We should not be surprised to see them attack that tradition persistently and comprehensively. This natural hostility reaches to the early pages of the Old Testament, the very foundations of the Judeo-Christian tradition, and to some famous words in the Declaration of Independence.

For today, because we can’t dive into the deep end of every pool in the neighborhood at once — this is an essay of modest length, not a book — I’ll ignore some things and assert others without detailed discussion. Each of these deserves careful consideration, but it won’t happen in this essay:

  • Is the expected attack under way, perhaps even well advanced? There may be few more important questions in our culture and politics, but I’m avoiding this question today, for economy’s sake and because I hope people with differing views of this question will read this essay.
  • I assert without discussion here that American liberals and leftists are not the same; they too are natural enemies. At the simplest level, when the labels make sense, liberals seek liberty. So do American conservatives. Leftists seek power.
  • I’m ignoring the extreme Right in the United States. They exist, but they are virtually irrelevant at present, except in Leftist rhetoric, and they occupy no significant place in the hearts and minds of most Americans, including the vast majority of conservatives. Moreover, the extreme Right’s goals closely resemble the Left’s; the major difference is branding. Much of what I say here about the Left would apply to the extreme Right as well.
  • I note without detailed discussion some concerns of religious and secular observers alike, including scholars. They point to increasing challenges among the rising generation of American youth and young adults, including an unusual lack of purpose and identity and a lack of hope for the future. (If one happens to believe the Left’s expected attack is well advanced in the US, one might see these unfortunate trends as highly convenient or even intentional.)
  • I assert without writing a book about it that the Left by nature works to destroy culture, the rule of law, and every traditional moral and social restraint, and to divide people into warring factions. This is their theoretical and historical path to seizing comprehensive power amid the rubble.

If your comfort requires you to read this discussion as purely theoretical and hypothetical, feel free. But if you happen someday to notice the American Left attacking the Judeo-Christian tradition — in real time or in history — you’ll know it is simply being true to itself, doing what so many Lefts have done before. It is using its power, when it has power, to attack its chief cultural rival.

All of that said (or evaded, as the case may be), we need a slightly larger foundation before we proceed.

Independence Day, a Sunday

This year, the United States’ Independence Day falls on a Sunday, my Sabbath. (I realize it’s not everyone’s Sabbath.) The Sabbath has long seemed to me ideal for “the heav’n-rescued land” to “praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.” Those are Francis Scott Key’s words, penned in a time when it was not clear that a relatively new nation would survive the British Empire’s latest efforts to reclaim it.

Independence Day: A Day for Gratitude

I’ve been thinking – about this day – that gratitude is a gentle, humble virtue. It may seem too ordinary and small to stand against its rampaging, chest-thumping opposites. This is doubly so in a tumultuous time such as ours. By any other name we applaud and admire ingratitude and shower it with wealth. Its symbols and slogans adorn our lives, both physically and virtually. We call it by a host of trendy names which sound so modern, so enlightened, so revolutionary. I’ll leave it for you to think of names that might fit here.

I think I know the full list of ugly vices some would ascribe to me (if I ever caught their notice) for saying this in AD 2021, but I feel a deep and enduring gratitude to Washington, Franklin, Jefferson, Adams, Madison, Wythe, and many others. This includes thousands whose names I never heard or read. This embraces both those who fought literal and political battles and those who loved, awaited, and sustained them from afar. I feel the same profound gratitude to God for all of these.

American Ideals Will Endure

Drawing freely from the Declaration of Independence and the passing scene, and dividing roughly by topic, I hold these truths — these American ideals — to be self-evident:

Individual Worth and Dignity

  • That all men and women should be equal before human law, as they are equal before the law and mercy of God.
  • That each human individually is endowed by the Creator, not by earthly government, with certain inalienable rights.
  • That among these rights (it’s a partial list) are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

This is the fundamental American ideal: we should be free to live our lives according to our own individual senses of happiness, as far as that is compatible with a free society which credibly attempts to balance the competing, legitimate rights of all individuals and to defend itself from enemies foreign and domestic.