By Julia Shaw
President Obama just redecorated The Oval Office. Part of his feng shui includes a new rug featuring several of his favorite quotes:
-- “The Only Thing We Have to Fear is Fear Itself” –Franklin D. Roosevelt
-- “The Arc of the Moral Universe is Long, But it Bends Towards Justice” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
-- “Government of the People, By the People, For the People” –Abraham Lincoln
-- “No Problem of Human Destiny is Beyond Human Beings” –John F. Kennedy
-- “The Welfare of Each of Us is Dependent Fundamentally Upon the Welfare of All of Us” –Theodore Roosevelt
Of all the memorable quotes in American history, Obama chooses no Founders’ words for his office rug. There is not even a nod to the Declaration of Independence (“All Men are Created Equal”…anyone?).
This is not the only time that Obama has ignored the Declaration of Independence. For instance, Jeffery Anderson recently noticed the dearth of references to the Declaration of Independence in the United States’ recent report to the United Nations Human Rights Council. This is a curious absence, considering that the Declaration of Independence proclaims natural rights and human equality to be the grounding of American government.
Since this administration is quite fond of lecturing, the report to the UNHRC could have been an opportunity to explain how the principles of human equality, natural rights, and the consent of the governed have been preserved through our Constitution and guide U.S. policies.
To be sure, the Obama administration asserts that “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights,” but this claim comes from the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights does not carry the same protection or assurances as the Declaration of Independence, because the Obama administration later pronounces: “People should be free and should have a say in how they are governed. Governments have an obligation not to restrict fundamental freedoms unjustifiably” (emphasis added).
Beyond misrepresenting America’s principles, the report was an opportunity for Obama to admire himself (“thirty years ago, the idea of having an African-American president would not have seemed possible; today it is our reality”), to praise his policy proposals (“Our recent health care reform bill also lowers costs and offers greater choices for women, and ends insurance company discrimination against them”), and to vilify Arizona’s immigration policies.
Obama’s disdain for the Declaration of Independence did not begin in 2010. With his 2008 election night victory speech, Obama asked Americans “to join in the work of remaking this nation the only way it’s been done in America for two-hundred and twenty-one years — block by block, brick by brick, calloused hand by calloused hand.” 2008 minus 221 is 1787.
Thus, Obama traces the beginning of America to Constitution’s creation of our evolving government rather than the Declaration’s statement of its fundamental principles. Perhaps that is why, prior to taking office, Obama spoke of a new Declaration: “What is required is a new declaration of independence, not just in our nation, but in our own lives — from ideology and small thinking, prejudice and bigotry — an appeal not to our easy instincts but to our better angels.”
Considering his past statements, maybe it’s a good thing that Obama did not place the Declaration of Independence on his rug. After all, we should not encourage him to continue to walk all over our Founding documents.