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Values That Shaped Our Nation: Are We Abandoning the Core Values of Our Founding Fathers?

Core Values: Liberty, Self-Government, Equality, Individualism, Diversity and Unity


The core values that shaped our nation are obviously subject to debate, but we will use the six noted above.  They are a good place to start and a place to question if we are at risk of abandoning what our nation’s forefathers fought for.  Where did these values come from?  From the histories of the peoples who settled here, and their experiences once they were here.  Who were these people?  They were malcontents from the old country who were poor, or destitute, and dissatisfied with their status in their native cultures and countries. 

They would not have endured the trip to America had they been content with their lot in their home country.  What was the attraction in this New World? It was probably unlimited land and unlimited opportunity, a place to start over.

As one of the key characters (Sgt. Kilrain) states in the marvelous film Gettysburg, “I damn all gentlemen.  I will be judged by who I am, not who my father was!”

Let’s look closely at these traits:

Liberty – “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.” (Declaration of Independence).  Liberty means your unalienable rights are recognized, and honored.

Self-government – “That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…”  (Declaration of Independence).  The important phrase is “consent of the governed”.  Without that, there is no self-governing.

Equality – “…that all men are created equal…”.  This phrase in the Declaration meant equality of opportunity, not equality of outcome.  Equality of outcome can only be achieved by rule, enforced by a tyranny.

Individualism – “… When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them …” (Declaration of Independence).  Jefferson was talking about the “separate and equal station” of a people, but that people can only be constituted as such if each person has a “separate and equal station”, the essence of individualism.

Diversity – “He (the King) has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.” (Declaration of Independence).  Diversity implies the acceptance of differing peoples and cultures, and Jefferson recognized that by accusing the King of obstructing naturalization and migration.  The assumption should be that all this diversity adopts the American culture, which they do if encouraged, while retaining their defining differences. That is why a Hispanic outfielder can celebrate Cinco de Mayo and the 4th of July.

Unity – “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”  (US Constitution – Preamble).  “E pluribus unum” – “out of many, one.” (Great Seal of the United States of America, adopted 1776).  The goal has always been a unified people. 

Unfortunately, there have always been those dissatisfied at how quickly goals are accomplished.  “What about slavery, what about women’s rights, what about prejudice against differentness of any kind?”  Well, what about it?  Does it have to happen at the origination point for the idea to be valid?  Does the striving not count at all?  What exactly are the values you would list?  What would be the result if the values you list take hold? It is time in this nation to examine our foundational principles and adhere to the values that men fought and died for.

Carl B. Johnson is a native of Fort Worth, Texas and received his MBA from Texas Christian University. He is a retired IBM executive and teaches locally in Texas. 

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