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Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness

“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. ” These words from the Declaration of Independence are perhaps the most famous words ever written or spoken in the Western world. If you ask anyone to quote a line from the Declaration of Independence, chances are that this is the line –usually the only line they can—choose. They are the basis of our justice system, and are at the root of all that America has become.

They represent democracy, they represent America; they are the reason we are still being flooded with immigrants today. The Pursuit of Happiness Our version of the statement was based on the words of John Locke, who wrote in his Treatise Concerning Government that all men have the right to “Life, Liberty and Possessions. ” The substitution of “happiness” for “possessions” broadens the meaning quite a bit. While perhaps the original intention was to assert the right of all to establish careers of their choosing and acquire property, it has since taken on an entirely subjective meaning.

Happiness is to be determined by the individual, a goal that is highly personal and contemplative. The role of the government is not to determine what an individual’s happiness should be, but rather to protect his right to pursue it. My personal goal to acquire happiness in my life has a little to do with establishing a particular career and becoming wealthy (although wealthy would be nice), but more to do with living in peace, in a happy, content manner. I would like to live in the place of my choosing, be gratified in my job, and raise a family.

I have no grand aspirations to be famous or the CEO of some enormous corporation, and I don’t want to be judged by this, and be considered lazy or unmotivated. I have a friend who does have lofty goals, and one day he said to another friend—who is much like me—“I love these little umbrellas that come in my drink. But can you imagine sitting in a factory all day making them? ” My other friends replied “Well, if someone wasn’t making them, what would you have to love?

” As silly as the exchange was, it made me feel at peace that my dreams of happiness don’t have to be grandiose to be considered worthwhile. Liberty To have the right to liberty…many rights that we take for granted can fall into this category. The right to freely move from place to place, be it in America or around the globe. The right to choose military service. The right to freedom of thought and expression, the right to life. Freedom of speech and equal rights often clash, however.

An example is the seemingly endless debate over the legality of same-sex marriages. Protestors have the right to gather and speak freely, yet by doing so they are denying the rights of gay couples to live freely and without judgement. My idea of liberty is pretty simple. I want to be able to avoid military service at my discretion. I enjoy the liberty to attend school and study subjects that interest me. I am able to worship in whatever faith I choose—a fact that never really occurred to me as being remarkable, but just now has!

We take our right to freedom for granted, when in reality, we should be thankful every day for the wisdom of our founding fathers. The words written long ago—“That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States…with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to eachother our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor”—have come to symbolize the dedication we have–not only as a united country but as individuals– to maintain the right to freedom.

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