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009 What are two rights in the Declaration of Independence?

9. What are two rights in the Declaration of Independence?
• Life
• Liberty
• Pursuit of happiness

The phrase “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” comes from the Declaration of Independence and it is something Americans talk a lot about. These words were written by Thomas Jefferson. He and the other men who wrote the Constitution believed that these are unalienable rights, that people are born with and that a government should not be given the power to take them away. These words have become synonymous with (or have the same meaning as) the “American spirit” (or the way that Americans think and feel).

In the United States, the right to life is considered the most basic of all rights. It’s exactly what it sounds like: the right to be alive. It may seem funny that the men who wrote the Declaration of Independence included life as a right, but many of the earliest Americans had come from countries that did not take this right seriously. In many of these countries, governments executed (or killed) their own citizens. This is why the men who wrote the Declaration of Independence included the right to life.

The second of Jefferson’s rights is the right to liberty (or freedom). The right to liberty is a person’s right to make his or her own decisions. Again, many of the
countries from which the earliest Americans came did not give their people this right.

The rights to life and liberty are easy to understand, but the third right, the right to the pursuit of happiness, is more vague (or unclear and difficult to understand). To pursue is to work hard to get something, in this case, happiness. Happiness, of course, could mean anything a person wants to have: a job, a family, or a safe place to live. The writers of the Declaration of Independence believed that the government should not interfere with (or get in the way of) a person’s right to pursue happiness. The pursuit of happiness is exemplified by (or shown or seen in) many American rags-to-riches stories, where a person who is very poor becomes very rich because of their own hard work, including those of several U.S. Presidents.


unalienable rights – rights (powers and abilities) that all people should have and that should never be taken away by anyone or any government
* Many Americans think that the freedom of religion is an unalienable right that the government should never be able to take away.

synonymous with (something) – with the same meaning as something else
* For her, spending the day on the beach with her family is synonymous with complete happiness.

to execute (someone) – to kill someone, usually because he or she has done something against the law or against a government
* Do you think that murderers should be executed or put in jail for the rest of their life?

liberty – freedom
* The United States fought for liberty from Great Britain during the Revolutionary War.

vague – unclear; hazy; difficult to understand; not specific or detailed
* Marcela said that she didn't come to the meeting because she had "something to do," but that seems like a vague excuse to me.

to pursue – to work hard to get something, especially if it is difficult or requires a lot of time
* I want to pursue a career in medical research.

to interfere with (something) – to get in the way of something; to prevent something else from happening; to make it difficult for something else to happen
* Many teenagers complain that their parents are always interfering with their plans to have fun.

to be exemplified by (something) – to be shown, seen, or explained as something else; to give as a typical example of something
* The Impressionist style is exemplified by this painting.

rags-to-riches story – a story where a very poor person works very hard and, as a result, becomes very rich and successful
* My father's life is a rags-to-riches story, since he started with nothing and today he is the president of a big bank.