Just 1,337 words, the Declaration of Independence marked the formal beginning of the United States, providing a promise of becoming the nation we continue to aspire to be. Americans across the political spectrum hold our self-evident truths – “all Men are created equal,” and “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness” – close to the heart. But do we, as a nation, fully understand the language and context of the Declaration we so cherish? Political philosopher and Director of Harvard’s Edmund J. Safra Center for Ethics, Danielle Allen, seeks to answer that very question.
Along with our ten Grand Valley State University partners, the Hauenstein Center was proud to welcome Professor Allen. She is the author of Our Declaration and winner of the Francis Parkman Prize. Allen gave a thought provoking and challenging lecture on the Declaration’s wording, and offered her insight into the role equality plays in the Declaration, and the American experience.
Danielle is the author of The World of Prometheus: The Politics of Punishing in Democratic Athens, Talking to Strangers: Anxieties of Citizenship since Brown vs. the Board of Education, Why Plato Wrote, Our Declaration: A Reading of the Declaration of Independence in Defense of Equality, Education & Equality, and Cuz: The Life and Times of Michael A.
In her book, Our Declaration, Danielle brilliantly displays how equality and liberty go hand-in-hand with one another, not opposed to one another. Danielle set out to “write a book free of footnotes and big words that anyone, down to a middle-school student, could read.” She would later win the Francis Parkman Prize for her efforts. In addition to her published works, Danielle is a contributing columnist at The Washington Post, and occasionally The Nation, Boston Review, and Democracy.