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In this video, Aspen Institute President and CEO Walter Isaacson talks to Sal about  the Declaration of Independence. Created by Sal Khan and Aspen Institute.
Video transcript
"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." It's just amazing seconds and into the Declaration of Independence that jefferson and Adams and Franklin wrote is part of a committee. And we were looking at that sentence. Let's go on to look at that phrase "they are endowed by their Creator." It interesting then the they don't really mention Jesus Christ and not even God. They talk about the laws of nature and of nature's God. Enough creator These would deist people kind of believe in the notion that there is some grand creator of the universe. But they don't get into the specifics of any particular religious dogma. The other thing is they're balancing. Where do our rights come from? In an earlier draft – (We will talk about how they edit the early drafts in a later video.) But in an earlier draft, they just it just says they are endowed with certain unalienable rights. And you see that John Adams probably is the one who wants to insert the phrase their Creator. And that was because they started the sentence with we hold these truths to be sacred. But they change that to self-evident. They're trying to say to what extent is it rationality that gives the QQ rights. To what extent are these rights endowed by God? And I think what they finally come down to is that we all had a creator. And those creator that creator made us all. And so to a certain extent, we were created equal. I create a must love us all we are all created by the same creator, therefore there's a certain equality that we have. And in creating us, he gave us certain unalienable rights. SAL KHAN: Unalienable – this means can't be taken away. Its can live a rated you can't be can't be separated from you. Can't take these right away. The King can't take these rights away. In other words, it's not as if we could give up these rights. And in particular, they are talking about this theory of government that John Locke QQ who is one of the philosophers that they QQ English philosopher that period who said that when you create a government order is a government, you give up some of your rights. For example, if we all agree that we're part of a government, we may give up our right, say, to take somebody else's property or whatever it may be. So these are rights you can give up. British written in rights -center on a QQ that she just can't give up or the king can't take away. Once again you've got to look at Thomas Jefferson, who actually own slaves at this point. And he is saying among those unalienable rights are life liberty and the pursuit of happiness. So there's this inherent conflict still between rights, such as liberty that you can take away from a person. And yet Jefferson's writing this phrase when he owned slaves. The phrase life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is also something that derives from John Locke. And these philosophers of the Enlightenment, they were writing in England. At one point, John Locke uses the phrase "life, liberty, and the pursuit of property ," because Locke believes that owning property was an important right you had, and the government couldn't just take your property away. However you can see that they change it to QQ more so than elevated for QQ we each get to pursue our own notion. And what we want to do in our lives happiness. I don't think they just mean happiness, like joy QQ frivolity. I think they mean pursuit of meaning in life – what gives our life meaning. And these are the unalienable rights. Then they go on and this gets to what's called the contract notion that government is that why do we have governments. And whether it's John Locke or the other philosophers we've talked about, they say the reason we have government is that we all had these right. But we decided to get together. We instituted governments government – institute it on net. And the reason those governments have their power is because of the consent of the governed. It's like if you and I and twenty people got together and formed a group and we said we were going to form a group and we will give up some of our rights, because the group itself will have certain powers. But we're consenting to do that. It's not because of the divine right of kings. It's to consent to govern the government. To consent to. The people say, "We will institute government amongst ourselves. And that's not to take away our rights. That's to secure our rights – rights we I might with the 20 of us might give up our right to that the kind of force things to police each other to the government. So that. But we could have our life liberty and pursuit of happiness. We're more likely to have it secured. And once you get to that theory, you have to say what are the types of rights we would give up? Judges may have the right to decide the traffic laws or the policing of things. Look for a Help. Property contracts are made. But there are certain things that no matter what you QQ, if you were instituting a government among men, you would not give up the right to life. You would not give up the right to liberty. And you would not say I'm going to give up my right to pursue my own life and my own happiness. You would say we want to secure those rights.