We’ve had a lot of reexamination of the founding fathers recently. I get that. I was raised by a history teacher and raised to ask questions. The Declaration of Independence states in the beginning that “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.”
I always have looked at the words Pursuit of Happiness and focused in on the word Pursuit. I think the founders knew that they could never guarantee happiness. You should only be given the opportunity to chase after it. You may never get there but you should have the chance to try for it. The term pursuit is an active word and to me also says that the achievement of happiness isn’t something that you can easily achieve but you have to work for it.
The preamble of the Constitution of the United States is similar when in the preamble it says “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect union. ” I’ve always held the belief that the words “more perfect union” don’t mean the same as perfect. The founders understood that everything was going to be a work in progress. The world of men could only move towards becoming perfect. The idea of utopia is something that you can strive for but is ultimately unobtainable. We are forever a work in progress. We will always fall short of our goal. Yet, that eternal task of striving towards perfection isn’t worth giving up on the world, the society of man was stagnated for thousands and thousands of years in its political thinking. The people who created these documents didn’t create them as a final say but as a starting gun that has spurned more social change in 243 years than in the prior 2000. I know sitting here in my comfortable living room with a privilege afforded to me by birth makes it easier for me to say it takes time. But, it does. It takes time. We have moved amazingly fast in overturning millennia of the status quo and we still have more to do. The ideals in those documents might not be achieved in 20 more or even 100 more years. But the Pursuit of that happiness and the creation of that more perfect union is something that we have to have faith will be achieved if not by us but our descendants.