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Victor Schachter: A 21st Century Declaration of Independence

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The Declaration of Independence is 245 years old and Victor Schachter suggests it might benefit from a revision to reflect modern realities.

As July 4th approaches, the inability of our republic to deliver on the promises made in the Declaration of Independence is disturbing. The horrific police brutalities inflicted on minority citizens, and the senseless killings plaguing communities of color and poverty call for a new declaration.

The second paragraph of the 1776 Declaration states: “We hold these truths to be self‐evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed ... with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Yet these “truths” have not been true for many Americans, in letter or spirit. The Declaration fails to recognize that we actually are a country of men and women, of many different races, sexual persuasions and religious beliefs. It ignores our duty to protect such rights for all humankind regardless of race, color, ethnicity, religion, national origin or sex not just men or whites. The asserted “truths” are not “self‐evident” to the many Americans suffering from acts of violence and discrimination.

A 21st century Declaration might better read: “All humankind is entitled to fully enjoy certain unalienable rights, regardless of race, color, religion, gender, sexual orientation, national origin, or physical or mental disability, and that among these are life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, equal economic opportunity and freedom from slavery or oppression. To secure these rights, governments should act under rules of law applicable equally to all.”


A 21st century Declaration would provide a more civilized and egalitarian framework of governance. Since 1776, we learned what a genuinely inclusive and enlightened society can be, and what the rule of law means. We should meet the challenge and work toward achieving in fact and in deed a new and true declaration of independence for a civilized and humane society.

With a Perspective, I’m Victor Schachter

Victor Schachter is the president of a Bay Area non-profit dedicated to promoting peaceful dispute resolution and the rule of law around the globe.

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