Liberty And Justice For All

Our Pledge of Allegiance was written in 1892. Its words were changed slightly in 1923 and again in 1954, but the phrase “with liberty and justice for all” has remained since the original version. This phrase is an echo of our Declaration of Independence, our Constitution, and our Bill of Rights. It is an inclusive statement that acknowledges the dignity and human rights of everybody. Yes, like we declared to King George, “all men are created equal” and “have been endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights.”

As we celebrate our nation’s 244th birthday this week, we the people are taking a close, hard look at whether or not America has lived up to these ideals. Do we really believe in the equality of all? Do we really stand for liberty and justice for all?

While we ponder these issues in terms of race and ethnicity, I would like to offer another group for your consideration – children. What are the rights of children in our country? Do they have the same unalienable rights to life and liberty as adults?

On the one hand, we would all say “yes.” Every child is a human being whose life and liberty should be acknowledged and protected by us and our laws. But children are at a disadvantage. They can’t vote. They can’t hire lobbyists. They can’t hold office. Many are not even capable of telling how they are being mistreated.

So, while children and adults are equal members of our society, children are in many ways “less equal.” The only rights they have, the only liberty they enjoy, the only justice they experience is what we adults give to them.

Every day in Blount County children are abused, neglected, or exploited. The only way that they will be helped is if an adult comes to their rescue. Each of us adults needs to see it as our responsibility to speak up if we think a child may be in trouble.

So, if you suspect something, please call Blount County DHR at 205-274-5200. As adults, it is our responsibility to ensure that each child in our community has the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

-Jim Ed Clayton, Executive Director, Blount County Children’s Center