Wednesday, January 7, 2009


The American Creed was written by Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence in 1776. The creed sanctifies the fundamental rights to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness“; based on the premise that God created all men as equal. This statement is considered to be one of the keystones that holds the American nation together and consequently forges its national identity. These principles do not seem to have lost their value in modern-day America. In fact, one could even argue that the influence of the American Creed has become even more meaningful nowadays. The creed is not only regarded as being a guide, but also a goal to be achieved. A sense of unity and pride, a longing for freedom and justice, the right – and especially the fight – for tolerance and equality, as underlined in the American Creed, still has an important place in the hearts of the American people today.

The monumental changes in the United States, with Barack Obama making history as the first African-American to head the White House, has pushed its citizens, including the President-elect himself, to greater heights in realizing the promise of the creed. In his victory speech, President-elect Obama mentions how significant it is for all Americans to cast their votes in order to make a change. He refers to Ann Nixon Cooper, a 106 year-old African-American woman residing in the state of Georgia, who has witnessed both positive and negative developments the country has gone through in her lifetime. There was a time when it was forbidden for her to vote: the fact that she is a woman, as well as the color of her skin, were a hindrance to this particular right . The American edifice is a work in progress, a society where all citizens are entitled to have their voice heard as one of their basic rights : regardless of color, background or beliefs. Obama, like Cooper, are the pillars of the foundation of the creed. The distinct progress over the last century, finally leading to a historical result in the last election, is but a reflection of the nation’s grand possibilites of fullfilling two of the principles written in the American Creed : liberty and equality.

Notwithstanding these great achievements, there remain major challenges in the United States, as the struggle for some of the rights in the American Creed continues. Thereupon, one can judge the relevance of the creed in modern-day America. It guarantees the right to life, of which the right to health care should be considered as one of its essential ingredients. In the year 2003, there were forty-three million people without a health care insurance in the United States. This illustrates the quite disturbing reality that the access to health care is not universally enjoyed by all citizens in the country. This right should neither be dependent on one’s ability to pay for it, nor should the health care be ridiculously expensive. As a result, the reform plan offered by Barack Obama, which will introduce radical changes in the system, is the proof that the American Creed is once again  applicable in the hope of obtaining this right. Because of the creed, Americans believe that they are entitled to having a better life, therefore, demanding an improvement of the health care system.

Finally, along with the presidential elections of 2008, the state of California passed the Proposition 8, which led to the ban of same-sex marriages. Although many were surprised and incredibly discontent about the results, the wish of many to disregard this proposition emphasizes the influence of the American Creed in modern-day America. The creed values the right to happiness. Getting married to the person you love, whether this individual is gay or straight, should be part of the rights embodied in the American Creed.  Proposition 8 might have passed in 2008, yet this law does not undermine the fact the that people will continue to struggle in order to obtain a right to be free when it comes to love.  As Geoff Kors, one of the members of the NO on Prop 8 Executive Committee, explains: “We are within just a few points of winning equality, and that fight resumes immediately. I have no doubt that one day soon all Californians will be allowed to marry the person they love”.

In conclusion, almost two hundred and fifty years after the enunciation of the American Creed in the Declaration of Independence, the nation is still very much inspired by the principles of the creed. The rights to life, equality, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are the keys to find balance and unity within a country. History demonstrates that the American Creed is more than being just a statement, it has also turned into a driving force, especially in modern-day America. It will keep on shaping the American national identity, given the reality that the battle for a number of these ”unalienable rights” still continues today. Some goals have been achieved, but others are like bricks which still need to be laid down. But like Obama’s clarion call, the American Creed  beckons ”Yes, we can !”