How Did Words Change America and the World

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America was founded on a set of ideals that “all men are created equal” but that isn’t really the case. America had trouble with this phrase hundreds of years ago and we as a nation are still struggling with this. The meaning of words has shaped this country into what it is today, how one perceives a message is completely individual. Three men who helped transform this country with their words were Thomas Jefferson, Eric Foner and Fredrick Douglass. All these men had a way with words and had a vision that once worked for this nation but as centuries passed, do those words still have the same meaning today as they did so many years ago?

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Thomas Jefferson was famously known for writing the Declaration of Independence, which contains the phrase “all men are created equal”. When Jefferson wrote his restrictive phrase of “all men are created equal” I think he meant all men are free under the legal law system but like many Americans today, they feel that white men still have more privileges over women and those of color. Over the years our government and political figures have helped eradicate sexual and racial discrimination to make every American equal but that isn’t really the case. In today's society, everything is digital, we have seen several videos of white police officers being a little too aggressive towards men of color. One video that comes to mind is when a white officer is on the ground with a larger black male and in the video, you can hear the individual on the ground yelling he couldn’t breathe. To me the racial disparity between the black community and law enforcement is completely contradicting what Thomas Jefferson claimed that “all men are created equal”.

Eric Foner, an American historian who focused a lot on American freedom and what it means to be free. Foner broke down “freedom” in three ways; economic freedom, personal freedom, and political freedom. These three forms of freedom were prevalent hundreds of years ago and they are still prevalent today as well. “ Definitions of freedom relegated to the margins in one era have become dominate in the next, and long abandoned understandings have been resurrected when circumstances changed.” (Foner xv) Foner argued that freedom meant something different to everyone and at different times, but the exclusions of freedom is in the middle to defining who is able to enjoy it, which is often along the lines of gender, class and race. We see this today in a little different form but still along the same lines. Americans today are now struggling with how to incorporate those who are transgender into a society that doesn’t really know how to act. Transgenders have their own struggles to try and feel accepted in their own freeway, but do they get to enjoy all the basic freedoms a natural born boy or girl gets? I think America is still trying to figure that out. Back when America was trying to figure out who all gets to enjoy freedom hundreds of years ago, we are still fighting the same fight with transgenders.

Fredrick Douglass, a slave that escaped, became a well-known abolitionist leader and fought for the justice of many. Douglass had gained followers and popularity because he spoke from the heart and spoke from experience. He knew exactly what it was like to be at rock bottom, he wasn’t always a free man, he was once considered someone's property. I think people like him, minorities gravitated towards him because he was their voice, he wanted to make a change and fight for equal rights. In his speech to the president he stated “No nation can now shut itself up from the surrounding world and trot round in the same old path of its fathers without interference. The time was when such could be done. Long established customs of hurtful character could formerly fence themselves in and do their evil work with social impunity. Knowledge was then confined and enjoyed but the privileged few and the multitude walked on mental darkness. But a change has now come over the affairs of mankind.” ( Douglass6) I think this statement he made holds true today as well. Today we aren’t fighting for slavery to end but we are fighting for our governing officials to make changes to the second amendment, the right to bear arms. We have people in our country like Fredrick Douglass who were victims or close to victims of gun violence. A name that comes to my mind is Emma González. She is an activist and advocate for gun violence. Emma was a survivor of the Parkland shooting that happened in 2018. Since the shooting Emma has created a movement called Never Again and continues to give speeches on why our gun laws need to be changed. Like Douglass, Emma went through no person should ever have to go through. But like one another they used their experiences and spoke up for what they believe in.

For Americans, equality is a word that has been expanded upon since the founding of this country. Like Jefferson and many of our other Founding Fathers, the phrase “all men are created equal” really meant that “all free, white property- owning males are created equal”. In America today everyone is free, there is no more slavery but there are people still fighting for equality. For nearly 200 years, Native Americans, African Americans, and women have fought for equal right by fighting that America should live up the set of ideal our founders put in place.

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