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. Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776
BY VARTAN GREGORIAN
The principles of the Declaration of Independence are embodied in the U.S. Constitution, the covenant that unites us as a nation and defends the pillars of our democracy: equal rights, equal justice, and equal opportunity — rights and protections that must be afforded to all citizens regardless of race, gender, or creed.
Some two-and-a-half centuries later, we are still failing to uphold these foundational principles for all. The killing of George Floyd has caused grief, anger, and fear, but also feelings of revulsion toward this latest manifestation of the country’s shameful legacy of racism. At this history-shaping moment, we seek to affirm racial and social justice as more than slogans or lofty aspirations; rather they must become the agenda of our nation, one that requires the full support of every American, from every background.
This latest atrocity moves us to be more vigilant in making sure that Carnegie Corporation of New York adheres to its mission and accomplishes its goals. We value education as the bedrock of our democracy. We believe in our historical role and moral obligation to provide all children with equal opportunities to learn, to succeed, and to obtain higher education. We value civic participation as the defender of a strong democracy. We believe that all Americans must be able to exercise their right to vote and engage in the democratic process. We support the rights of individuals and groups to make their voices heard in order to confront ignorance, injustice, and the systemic racism that has brought us to this point.
We are reckoning with the fact that justice delayed is justice denied, and we salute those institutions working to reform the law enforcement, criminal justice, and judicial systems that have discriminated against black Americans. Our immediate priorities include collaborating with our philanthropic peers to expose and end the long line of injustices against people of color and their communities. By working toward solutions, we seek to further the democratic ideals of our founder, Andrew Carnegie.
More than a century ago, Carnegie reflected on many of these fraught issues in his book Triumphant Democracy, writing that one person’s right is every person’s right: “The flag is the guarantor and symbol of equality.” This is the time to reflect on our values and beliefs. This is the time to uphold the Constitutional rights of all people by pursuing equality, fairness, and justice. This is the time to demonstrate that Black Lives Matter.
Vartan Gregorian is the President, Carnegie Corporation of New York