Paul  Kengor

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this article first appeared in American Thinker.

Last week, before an audience of millions of Americans, the new president made a telling statement. Alluding to the American founders, President Barack Obama, in his Inaugural Address, stated: “The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.” This seemed to be a reference to the Declaration of Independence, or at least to the principles in that sacred political document.

On the surface, Obama certainly said nothing objectionable. The moment I heard those words, however, I immediately noticed—as did others who quickly commented—that Obama neglected two crucial things from the most famous line not only in the Declaration of Independence but in the essence of the American founding: 1) He left out the unalienable right to “Life;” and 2) He left out the words “created” and “Creator”—the God who “endows” that “Right,” a right which is a “self-evident” “truth.”

This slight was significant for many reasons. Chief among them, it is patently clear—as it was to the American founders—that one must have life before one can entertain liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That is why that quintessential right is so fundamental and unassailable, as theologians and political philosophers alike have long underscored in their admiration of the Declaration. Thomas Jefferson himself wrote that very line, which was preserved throughout the edits and revisions to Jefferson’s text by John Adams, Ben Franklin, and the entirety of the Continental Congress.