Renewing our commitment to the Declaration

By Karthick Ramakrishnan and Maggie Gunther Osborn, The Sun |

The Declaration of Independence, written 245 years ago, sparked a revolution that helped birth a nation. The power of the Declaration’s “self-evident” truths also inspired global movements for human rights and democracy that remain powerful today, by declaring that all “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.”

As we emerge from a tumultuous year—of pandemic, racial strife, and party polarization—it is worth returning to these fundamental truths, and to reflect on how they might help us heal and rebuild our incredibly diverse nation. This 4th of July weekend, a group of funders, thinkers, creators, and community leaders are launching the New Declaration campaign (at, which invites every community to join in reflection and creative expression. Our goal is to strengthen the foundations of our nation in advance of the Declaration’s 250th anniversary in 2026.

Our partners span the country, including the Wick Poetry Center at Kent State University in Ohio, which for over 35 years has inspired grassroots movements for creative expression across the country. It also includes Thomas Allen Harris, the creator of Family Pictures USA, a nationally broadcast PBS documentary-style series that inspired hundreds of Americans to share their family portraits, and to discover the fundamental ways that our histories are interconnected through celebration and struggle alike. It also includes the Census Legacies project, which builds on the foundations of 2020 Census outreach to build stronger communities and more inclusive regions.

To begin, the Maryland Philanthropy Network and the Center for Social Innovation at UC Riverside will serve as an incubator and accelerator, helping to build and launch a five-year campaign that strengthens our shared commitments to interdependence, equity, and unity. We aim to engage communities across all states and regions—coastal and inland, urban and rural, red and blue. And we hope to soon build a movement that engages and supports a diverse array of artists, writers, storytellers and community leaders from across the country, to elevate and amplify their narratives as we begin the story of our next 250 years.