Two hundred and twenty one years ago, in a hall that still stands across the street, a group of men gathered and, with these simple words, launched America’s improbable experiment in democracy.
Farmers and scholars; statesmen and patriots who had traveled across an ocean to escape tyranny and persecution finally made real their declaration of independence at a Philadelphia convention that lasted through the spring of 1787.
The document they produced was eventually signed but ultimately unfinished. It was stained by this nation’s original sin of slavery, a question that divided the colonies and brought the convention to a stalemate until the founders chose to allow the slave trade to continue for at least 20 more years, and to leave any final resolution to future generations.
Of course, the answer to the slavery question was already embedded within our Constitution — a Constitution that had at its very core the ideal of equal citizenship under the law; a Constitution that promised its people liberty, and justice, and a union that could be and should be perfected over time.
And yet words on a parchment would not be enough to deliver slaves from bondage, or provide men and women of every color and creed their full rights and obligations as citizens of the United States. What would be needed were Americans in successive generations who
were willing to do their part — through protests and struggle, on the
streets and in the courts, through a civil war and civil disobedience
and always at great risk — to narrow that gap between the promise of
our ideals and the reality of their time. This was one of the
tasks we set forth at the beginning of this campaign — to continue the
long march of those who came before us, a march for a more just, more
equal, more free, more caring and more prosperous America. I
chose to run for the presidency at this moment in history because I
believe deeply that we cannot solve the challenges of our time unless
we solve them together — unless we perfect our union by understanding
that we may have different stories, but we hold common hopes; that we
may not look the same and we may not have come from the same place, but
we all want to move in the same direction — towards a better future
for our children and our grandchildren. – Barack Obama