The Words that Shape Our World

By: Maddie Miller

What do the Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and Bill of Rights all have in common? Honestly, this is a relatively easy answer. These documents are credited with shaping the United States of America. Today, our class had the opportunity to see all of these documents in one place at the National Archives.


The lasting words of Lincoln’s second inaugural address remain as a reminder of the impact of words. Photo Credit: Grace Dunn.

The words that are recorded on these revered documents were meticulously thought out and discussed before being recorded. Even then, vigorous debate led to changes to the documents. The specific wording was recorded so that what was decided upon could be documented as a point of reference.

Along with the three notable pieces some favorites of the class included Clarence Gideon’s petition to the Supreme Court, a list of the approximately 11,000 proposed amendments to the Constitution, the Emancipation Proclamation, and the Bible upon which George Washington took the oath of office during his first inauguration. All of these pieces resonated with us as we reflected on the various ways that our country has been shaped.

The words and their original intent have long been discussed as a way of determining an appropriate course of action, serving as our guiding principles. It is interesting to think about how different people would act if they too felt their words would be recorded and referenced for all time. As people, we are constantly surrounded by words that are crafted to influence us. This is seen through advertisements, newspapers, televisions shows, Facebook feeds, and cell phones. People are continually in contact in so many different ways, shaping opinions. This challenge of being mindful of the words you choose places the importance of rhetoric on the speaker.

Putting this idea of mindfulness of speech into current events brings out a lot of reflection on the way that public officials’ choices reflect the nation. One example of this, is how the reactions to Twitter posts by the president-elect influence political discourse domestically and internationally.

Words continue to shape our world today, and that is a trend that will probably continue for the foreseeable future. The National Archives serve as an example of the impact that words can have, teaching a valuable lesson.

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