NEW ROCHELLE, NY -- Eyebrows have been raised following the release of the Albert Leonard Middle School yearbook. The cause of concern is what purports to be a patriotic literary quotation on freedom and duty from The Founders but is actually a distorted, redacted amalgam of quotations, among them a line lifted out of context from noted Algerian communist and unbeliever Albert Camus.
Spread out over the opening six pages of the yearbook, above montages of students engaged in various activities, is a series of words presented as a single quotation. The words are bracketed with a quotation mark on the first page and a quotation mark on the last page. The words are not a quotation.
The quotation begins with a bastardized version of the opening line of the second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence, transitions into an aphorism from a Scottish Presbyterian minister and ends with a nod to to the French-Algerian philosopher. At first glance, it might appear that the words are from the Declaration of Independence but upon closer inspection the words, presented as a single and complete quotation, is a distorted compliation of three heavily edited sources. The edits remove any reference to God in the Declaration while adding in a line from Camus, the Nobel Prize Winning atheist.
The quotation begins with an altered version of a line from the Declaration of Independence.
The actual line reads “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men 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.
The ALMS yearbook version reads:
Page 1: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all people are created equal,
Page 2: Endowed with certain unalienable rights.
Page 3: That among these are Life, Liberty and pursuit of happiness.
The word “men” has been replaced with “people” on page 1, the words “that they are” and “by their creator with” on page 2 and the word “the” on page 3.
The source of government power envisioned by The Founders was a power that came from God and flowed to the people as opposed from God to the government (i.e. a British Monarch). In New York State, public schools are required to teach the Declaration of Independence to students, not some politically correct version of it. To remove the line “endowed by their creator” is to remove the philosophical underpinning of the justification for the Revolutionary War and the establishment of what became the first independent nation in America.
The rights Thomas Jefferson wrote about in the Declaration of Independence applied only to white men holding property so changing “all men” to “all people” is to literally white-wash that history. It is to ignore that what later became the United States of America was founded on principals that did not apply to women and ignored slavery while enshrining it in the country’s founding documents.
The quotation then morphs into a slightly altered version of a line attributed to Peter Marshall, a Scottish Clergyman. Marshall immigrated to the United States from Scotland in 1927, and later became pastor of the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in Washington, DC, a prominent parish in the nation’s capital. He served briefly as Chaplain for the United States Senate until his death in 1949. He was the subject of a book, “A Man Called Peter”, written by his wife after his death. The book was made into an Academy Award-nominated film of the same name.
The full Marshall quotation is “May we think of freedom, not as the right to do as we please, but as the opportunity to do what is right.”
Page 4: These freedoms do not give us the right to do as we please,
Page 5: but the opportunity to do what is right.
On page 4, the word “May we think of“ is omitted, the word “freedom” changed to “freedoms”, the phrase “not as the right to do as we please” has been changed to “do not give us the right to do as we please”.
Marshall is speaking of “freedom” of all human beings to act within a metaphysical context, the change to the word “freedoms” limits the term to U.S. citizens only by relating the line back to the three freedoms listed in the Declaration of Independence.
On page 5, in the line “but as the opportunity to do what is right,” the word “as” has been omitted.
The quotation ends with a line from Albert Camus’ book “Resistance, Rebellion, and Death”, a collection of essays published posthumously in 1960.
The full quote from the essay is: "Freedom is nothing else but a chance to be better, whereas enslavement is a certainty of the worst."
Page 6: “Because freedom is nothing but a chance to be better”.
Page 6 adds in the word “because”, leaves out the word “else” and the second phrase of the line “whereas enslavement is a certainty of the worst”.
The statement is an excerpt on Freedom of the Press in Camus’ “Defense of Freedom” Speech given at the Labour Exchange of Saint-Etienne on May 10, 1953.
The statement follows upon this statement:
A free press of course can be good or bad, but, certainly without freedom it will never be anything but bad. When one knows of what man is capable, for better or worst, one also knows that it is not the human being himself who must be protected but the possibility he had with him — in other words, his freedom.
Camus was a journalist and philosopher. He wrote for “Combat”, the French Resistance newspaper, during World War II. While Camus does write about freedom and duty in his essays, here he is writing about his views on press freedom not freedom in absolute terms.
What is perhaps most distressing about the purported yearbook quotation is a public school creating a hodgepodge of unattributed, bowdlerized statements from multiple authors, putting them in quotation marks and attempting to pass them off a single statement, and without attribution to boot.