I hear from and meet Americans every day who have a very different view. They see America as having flaws, to be sure. But they understand that these flaws are not in the nature of our country but in the nature of humanity. No government can—or should try to—change our fundamental human nature. Deliverance is for the next life. You don't have to look any farther than the killing fields of Cambodia, the gulags of Soviet Russia, or the mass starvation of Communist China to see what happens when government tries to remake men and women.
The wonderful thing about the system we inherited from the Founders is that it doesn't try to change our humanity; rather, it respects it and honors it. This is the approach our Founders took from the very beginning, when they announced the birth of America with, next to the Bible, the most consequential words for human freedom ever written: 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, Libertyand the pursuit of Happiness.—That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,—That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructiveof these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizingits powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.
I still get chills when I read these words. They express a beautiful idea—that we are all equally precious in the eyes of our Creator—that gave birth to a beautiful country. "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 . . ."
It is to keep faith with these words that our Constitution begins "We the people."
In America, the people are sovereign, not just as a group, but individually. We are endowed by our Creator with this sovereignty. That means no person, no king and no government, can rule us without our consent. We all have a right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness that wasn't given to us by government; it was given to us by God. Therefore, it can't rightly be taken away by government.
To me, the Declaration of Independence is an expression of our ideals as a nation—the ideals of liberty and equality—and the Constitution is how we make those ideals a reality. I found a great metaphor Abraham Lincoln used to describe the relationship between the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution in Matthew Spalding's wonderful book We Still Hold These Truths.