The Atlantic

Go Read the Declaration of Independence

The universality of its ideals is precisely what makes the United States exceptional.
Source: Hannah Mckay / Reuters

There are July 4 traditions that are welcome and seemingly indestructible: barbecues and fireworks, most notably. There are some that are fortunately defunct: hours-long orations by stuffed-shirt politicians. There are some innovations that one hopes do not become traditions: 60-ton tanks rolling through Washington, D.C., most notably. And there is one that has faded with time, yet is worth preserving: reading the entire Declaration of Independence, from the ringing opening through the bill of particulars to the pledge of “our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.”

Some will say that the declaration was merely a cleverly written piece of propaganda. Others find in it the rank hypocrisy of its principal author, Thomas Jefferson, who preached liberty

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