In just 1,337 words, the Declaration of Independence changed the world, but curiously it is now rarely read from start to finish, much less understood. Unsettled by this, Danielle Allen read the text quietly with students and discovered its animating power.
"Bringing the analytical skills of a philosopher, the voice of a gifted memoirist, and the spirit of a soulful humanist to the task, Allen manages to find new meaning in Thomas Jefferson' s understanding of equality," says Joseph J. Ellis about Our Declaration. Countering much of the popular perception, she restores equality to its rightful place, detailing the Declaration's case that freedom rests on equality. The contradictions between ideals and reality in a document that perpetuated slavery are also brilliantly tackled by Allen, whose cogently written book is a must-listen "for all who care about the future as well as the origins of America' s democracy" (David M. Kennedy).
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June 2015 Declaration Review.
Second Most Interesting Book I've Ever Read
The narrator read slowly, but given the weightiness, depth, and complexity of the material, her pace was necessary. She did an excellent job, and was an excellent choice to read this book.
This is the second most interesting book I have ever read. It gives in-depth historical, etymological/philological, and historical background for the Declaration of Independence, but it is primarily a work of political philosophy. Allen does a fantastic job keeping it highly personal and practical. She argues that the Declaration is one of the most important documents in American politics/political history, and that it has been and is being misread in the current political landscape. It changed my political outlook on our contemporary situation, and I buy her extremely well-reasoned argument.
However, I cannot remember reading a more intense book, a book that required all of my concentration and nearly all of my (not inconsiderable) intellect. I first acquired it as an Audible (audio) book, but I had to buy it so that I could listen and read it at the same time. It was worth every penny, every minute, and every bit of energy.
Do not read this book if you are not willing to commit to understanding it and reading it through the end of the epilogue. Do not read this book if you are uninterested in political philosophy - there are other, excellent books on the history of the Declaration.