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Perspective: Our Sacred Social Contract

Susan Stephens

We just celebrated Independence Day. We celebrate not only our birth as a nation; we renew also our commitment to the great social contract proclaimed in the Declaration. We define ourselves by our belief in equality and our mutual pledge to respect the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Most nations are defined by ethnicity, religion, or an ancient historical place or culture. Not us. Americans define themselves by belief in an idea--the idea that the Declaration expresses correctly the proper relationship between government and its citizens. Government is limited government, limited to protect our rights. In order to be an American all one has to do is to commit to the principles of the Declaration. America is the "creedal" nation.

Have we always honored our commitment to these principles? Of course not. If only we had. The author of our sacred social contract, and several other signers, enslaved fellow Americans who in fact possessed these same rights. The trail of our history is littered with violations of our deepest principles.

But still the commitment remains and must remain. We must attempt to redeem our historical pledge to each other. We must try always to honor our original commitment to the principles of the Declaration. We must strive finally to become what Lincoln termed "the last, best hope of mankind."

I'm Bob Evans, and that is my perspective.

Robert Evans is an Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Economics, Business and Accounting at Rockford University and Associate Director of the Center for Ethics and Entrepreneurship. He is actively involved in the Rockford University public policy program, trains managers on law-related topics, is a political consultant and analyst, and also serves on non-profit boards.