1 The Declaration of Independence
The Declaration of Independence was signed on July 4th 1776. It was drawn up by Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Roger Sherman and Robert Livingstone declaring the usa to be independent from the British Crown.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness…”
2 The Constitution of the USA
The Constitution of the United States of America went into effect in March 1789. It defines the principal organs of government and their jurisdictions and the basic rights of citizens.
Twenty-seven amendments have been added to the Constitution since 1789.
The first ten amendments are known as the Bill of Rights. They were ratified in 1791.
The 2nd amendment establishes the right of people to bear arms.
“A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”
The 13th amendment (1865) abolished slavery.
The 15th amendment (1870) guaranteed the right to vote regardless of race.
3 The Civil War
The Emancipation Proclamation was issued by President Lincoln on January 1st 1863. It freed the slaves of the Confederate states in rebellion against the Union.
The Gettysburg Address was delivered by President Lincoln when the field of the battle of Gettysburg was dedicated as a national cemetery on November 19th 1863. The battle was the Civil War’s turning point. Lee’s Confederate army was defeated by Meade’s Union forces.
“… we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.”
4 Leading figures
John Fitzgerald Kennedy was inaugurated in 1960. This is a quotation from his Inaugural Address.
“And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country. My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.”
In August 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his speech “I have a dream” at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. He called for an end to racism in America.
“...I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today…”
In November 2008 the Democrat Barack Obama became the first African-American to win the White House. This is an extract from his Victory Speech (Chicago, November 2008).
n.b. “she” refers to Ann Cooper, 106 years old at the time of the speech.
“When there was despair in the Dust Bowl and depression across the land, she saw a nation conquer fear itself with a New Deal, new jobs and a new sense of common purpose. Yes, we can.
When the bombs fell on our harbour and tyranny threatened the world, she was there to witness a generation rise to greatness and a democracy was saved. Yes, we can.”