NPR’s Steve Inskeep scrapped his traditional 4th of July reading of the Declaration of Independence on Monday after more than three decades, and instead opted to devote the segment to a discussion on equality.
After a bit of a false start in 2021 — when the hosts read the Declaration but drew attention to what they believed were flaws and hypocrisies — Inskeep and his co-host Leila Fadel ended the 33-year tradition in 2022. They replaced it with an 11-minute segment examining what equality truly meant, both when the Declaration of Independence was written and in the years since then.
“This July 4th we break with tradition,” Fadel tweeted. “Instead of a reading of the Declaration of Independence @NPRinskeep examines what equality means and has meant in this document. Important segment about our past and future … produced by @marcarivers and @bgordemer.”
This July 4th we break with tradition. Instead of a reading of the Declaration of Independence @NPRinskeep examines what equality means and has meant in this document. Important segment about our past and future…produced by @marcarivers and @bgordemer https://t.co/MxlgNaWpC1
— Leila Fadel (@LeilaFadel) July 4, 2022
For the segment, among others, Inskeep spoke with Harvard historian Jill Lepore — who explained that Thomas Jefferson drew from enlightenment thinkers when he wrote the concept of equality into the Declaration.
“It’s fashionable, and rightfully so, to indict the limits of [Jefferson’s] vision. But in the 18th century, even the idea that all white men are created equal was a radical notion at the time,” Lepore explained. “Those men lived in a highly ranked culture, and a declaration of equality is throwing that away, or challenging that in a revolutionary manner.”
Inskeep tied the conversation to recent heated political battles, applying the concept of equality to the recently-overturned landmark abortion case Roe v. Wade. “And many of our debates on this July 4th turn on what equality means. What voting rules really give equal access to the ballot. Do abortion laws give a woman equal control of her body? At what point is a fetus entitled to equal rights?” he asked.
He went on to suggest that Republicans were behind a push for “unequal voting power,” adding, “For some people equality is out of style. Some political progressives prefer the term, ‘equity.’ Some Republicans in Texas and Colorado have called for unequal voting power, giving more weight to conservative voters. The global move toward authoritarian rule opposes equality, asserting that some people are more equal than others.”