The American society has been in a constant struggle to live up to the ideals expressed in the Declaration of Independence since the founding of our original nation. The founding ideals of America are based on equality, liberty, opportunity, democracy, and rights (Bowe, 2007). The United States has since projected itself and has been recognized as a beacon of democracy and freedom in the world. In America’s long history of development and American Imperialism, there has been constant struggle to live up to the ideals of equality, liberty, opportunity, democracy, and rights.
The first founding ideal is equality. It is ideal in which all people are treated the same and valued equally. The ideal is based on the Christianity belief that all people are equal before the eyes of God. The founding ideal of equality has been challenging to live up to. Since the colonial period, some Americans were held as slaves while women were held unequally in the society. Slaves and women were not involved in political processes and were devalued in the society (Bowe, 2007).
However, in the 1920s, the culture of the African Americans who were previously mistreated as slaves and discriminated in the American society, was recognized due to Harlem Renaissance (Steiner, 2013). In the present American society, there has been progress achieved in expanding the founding ideal of equality among all the citizens on America. Slavery has been abolished and declared illegally. African Americans and women have been empowered and can now hold any positions in the society. They have also been granted all the rights and privileges ranging from voting, access to health serviced to education. However, some people argue that the founding ideal of equality has been provided by all. Women need to be empowered more, and there should be a provision for equal presentation especially in political positions. Furthermore, minority groups are not truly treated equally and continue to struggle for more equality in the present American society (Bowe, 2007).
The second founding ideal is liberty. Liberty can be used to imply political freedom, moral or religious obligation, opposition to slavery or civil liberty (Teachers’ Curriculum Institute, 2007). The founding ideal of liberty was influenced by colonialists from the United Kingdom. Despite the belief that there should freedom for liberty, a fifth of the population were slaves. Over the American beginning, citizens have prided themselves on enjoying the liberty. They are not restricted to years of old socioeconomic treatments under the rule of peasants, and clergy. American citizens have enjoyed the liberty to practice religion of their preference and lead a life of their choice (Teachers’ Curriculum Institute, 2007). Liberty has influenced the movement of people from other countries to America. However, there should be limits to the foundation ideal of liberty as other people go beyond the moral values of the society and do actions that are unethical and morally unacceptable.
The third founding ideal is opportunity. Opportunity gives people a chance to pursue their dreams and wishes. Early colonists who came to America because they believed that America was a land of opportunity which was endowed with many resources that were unexploited. Opportunity encouraged newly settles mostly from Europe to move to America. As more settlers moved to America searching for the opportunity, Native Americans were largely affected. Most of them were infected by diseases such as smallpox brought by Europeans (Bowe, 2007). They were also pushed away from their farms by European settlers. During the period before independence, several acts were signed which forced Native Americans to surrender their land to the federal government thus denying them the opportunity to own land. The opportunity of Native Americans was few as compared to those of white settlers who took away the opportunity of Native Americans. In the present American society, the American constitution and the Bill of Rights have enhanced and provided opportunity for all. Opportunity still encourages new comers to come to America because they believe America is a land of opportunity. However, serious concerns have been raised if the opportunity is truly available for all (Bardes, 2008).
The fourth founding ideal is democracy. Democracy is the system of government that is based in the consent of the governed (Teachers’ Curriculum Institute, 2007). America has evolved to become one of the recognized democratic country in the world. However, the history of the present democracy has not been smooth. At the beginning of America, there were voting restrictions that enabled property owning adult protestant white males to be the only people allowed to participate in democracy (Steiner, 2012). Then those restrictions were eliminated, and adult white males were allowed to vote. This was just a small representation of the whole American populations that could actually vote in the process of democracy restricting African Americans and women from taking part in democracy. However, the passage of the 19th amendment granted women right to vote. Finally in 1960s, African Americans were allowed to vote due to pressure from civil rights leaders and activists. The modern America constitution allows all citizens over the age of 18 years to participate in the democratic process (Cox et al., 2013).
The fifth founding ideal is rights. Rights provide the power and privileges to people either by law or by agreement among themselves (Jayne, 2010). The ideal was influenced by Thomas Jefferson, who argues in favor of universal or natural rights in place to all human kind (Jayne, 2010). The present American Constitution and the Bill of Rights have many rights such as right of speech, information, education among many others. However, some people argue that there should be expansion of those rights to accommodate different views of the people in the society.
In a nutshell, in America’s long history of development and American Imperialism, there has been constant struggle to live up to the ideals of equality, liberty, opportunity, democracy, and rights. The struggle has significantly changed the face of America in the entire world. Several advancement has been made since independence. Even though argue that America has not lived up to its ideals, the country has overcome many challenges to ensure achieves its foundational ideals of liberty, opportunity, equality, rights, and democracy for all.
- Bardes, Barbara et al. American government and politics today: The essentials 2008. Cengage Learning, 2008. Print.
- Bowe, Bert, “Defining & Debating America’s Ideals,” In history Alive! Rancho Cordova, CA: Teacher’s Curriculum Institute, 2007.
- Cox, Michael et al. US Presidents and democracy promotion: From Theodore Roosevelt to Barack Obama. Routledge, 2013. Print
- Jayne, Allen. Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence: Origins, philosophy, and Theology. University of Kentucky, 2010. Print.
- Steiner, Howard. The Declaration of Independence. Lulu.com, 2012. Print.