The Declaration of Independence has been described as the most important document in human history. Here, in the memorable language of the famous preamble, a hundred and ten words fatally undermined the political basis of the old order and proclaimed a new era in which free peoples would henceforth govern themselves:
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. That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed, that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these Ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it, and to institute a new Government, laying its Foundations on such Principles and organizing its Powers in such Form, as to Them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
Written to explain to “a candid World” why the American people had taken the extraordinary step of declaring independence from Great Britain and of forming a new nation, the Declaration's universal message of equality spoke not only to the founding fathers' generation but also to future generations and peoples around the world struggling to throw off oppression. Its words inspired Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, the abolitionist movement against slavery, women seeking the vote, Martin Luther King's “I Have a Dream” speech, the shipyard workers of Gdansk, protestors in the streets of Prague opposed to the Soviet Union, and Chinese students confronting communist tanks in Tiananmen Square.