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Today is the 234th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence by what later became the United States of America. Two centuries and three decades later, columnists are reflecting on the state of the union and on the ongoing challenges of the great American experiment. Here's what they have to say.
"There is nothing wrong in America that can't be fixed with what is right in America." - Bill Clinton
- We Still Have Not Overcome Our 'Original Sin' The New York Times' Frank Rich writes, "All men may be created equal, but slavery, America’s original sin of inequality, was left unaddressed in the Declaration of Independence signed 234 years ago today. Of all the countless attempts to dispel that shadow over the nation’s birth, few were more ambitious than the hard-fought bill Lyndon B. Johnson signed into law just in time for another Fourth of July, 46 summers ago. ... But the story of America and race is hardly resolved, and progress is not inexorable. Even in the new century, we still take steps back and forward in bewildering alternation."
- What Got Left Out of the Declaration The Wall Street Journal's Peggy Noonan tells the story of Thomas Jefferson's omitted condemnation of the British people for allowing the king to continue on. "These facts have given the last stab to agonizing affection, and manly spirit bids us renounce forever," Jefferson wrote. "We must endeavor to forget our former love for them." Noonan reflects, "Talk of love was a little much for the delegates. Love was not on their mind. The entire section was removed. And so were the words that came next. But they should not have been, for they are the tenderest words. Poignantly, with a plaintive sound, Jefferson addresses and gives voice to the human pain of parting: 'We might have been a free and great people together.' What loss there is in those words, what humanity, and what realism, too."
- We Still Live in Henry Clay's America The Washington Post's David Broder mourns 19th century Senator Henry Clay. "He was a unique figure in American history, the founder of the Whig Party, the youngest speaker of the House at the time, one of the giants of the Senate in its golden age, a five-time candidate for the White House and the author of some of the most significant legislation in the first century of our national development. ... Clay invented the American System ... Between Washington's time and Lincoln's, it is probable that no American was more influential than Clay -- and certainly no one who did not occupy the White House."
- Blogosphere Could Only Happen in America The Atlantic's Andrew Sullivan beams, "I believe the blogosphere first truly gained traction in America for a good reason. There is something about blogging's freedom from the constraints of conventional journalism that captures an American ideal: civic engagement totally free of anyone else's influence. It is an ideal of a fourth estate hostile to authorities public and private, suspicious of conventional wisdom, and, above all, confident, even when confidence seems absurd, in the power of the word and the argument to make a difference ... in the end."
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Max Fisher is a former writer and editor at The Atlantic.