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04 July 2013

The U.S. Declaration of Independence and Why It Matters in Egypt

As we sit here on Independence Day, the day millions of Americans celebrate this nation formally severing ties with Great Britain 237 years ago, I'm reminded of the powerful language contained in the historic Declaration of Independence.

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 to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.


The Declaration of Independence says that governments are instituted among men to secure certain unalienable rights; and that among these rights are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The Declaration of Independence makes no distinction when it says governments are instituted among men. A government could be dictatorship, a monarchy, or even a democracy. All are forms of government.

The Egyptians would argue, with the same passion as the authors of our own Declaration of Independence, that it is their right to alter or, in this case, abolish the Morsi government and institute new government.
The Declaration of Independence goes on to say, "That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."

Whenever any form of government, the Declaration of Independence reads, becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute new government. That says it all, right there. The phrase, "any form of government," is all encompassing. Any form of government means any form of government, whether that form of government be a dictatorship, monarchy, or democracy.

On the 3rd of July, after days of protest, the democratically elected Egyptian president was removed from power.

Media reports claimed that some 22 million Egyptians signed a petition demanding Mohammed Morsi remove himself from office. Millions of Egyptians took to the streets urging former president Morsi leave power.

Allow me to repeat that.

Millions of Egyptians took to the streets to demand their democratically elected president resign from office.

"Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed," reads the U.S Declaration of Independence.

It is clear, as evidenced by the days of protests in Egypt, that the Morsi government lost its consent to govern. Millions of Egyptians took to the streets to demonstrate that fact.

Some Egyptians would argue the Morsi government became destructive towards securing certain unalienable rights. The Egyptians would argue, with the same passion as the authors of our own Declaration of Independence, that it is their right to alter or, in this case, abolish the Morsi government and institute new government. Why? Because the Morsi government became destructive towards the people; because the Morsi government lost the consent of the Egyptian people to govern.

237 years ago, America's founders recognized that governments can become destructive. Yes, even democratically elected governments can become destructive. When government becomes destructive; whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends --whether that government is a dictatorship, monarchy, or a democracy-- it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

Ultimately, it is up to the people to determine when any form of government has become destructive, and whether that form of government deserves to be altered or abolished.

Millions of Egyptians made that determination this week. And today, as we celebrate our own independence, we should stand with the Egyptian people as they continue to assert theirs.