People for the American Way
Delcaration of Independence Road Trip
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When I first looked at the Declaration of Independence, my eyes welled up. I thought – this is our nation’s birth certificate, the people’s document, and it should visit Americans, rather than sit somewhere on a wall waiting for Americans to come to it, as a reminder of the freedoms we all cherish.

- Norman Lear
 
 
 
 
   
  normanlear.com  
     
 

Declaration of Independence Road Trip


In 2000, Lyn and Norman Lear purchased a rare, original copy of the Declaration of Independence with the goal of bringing "the people's document" directly to the American people.

Launched on July 4, 2001, the Declaration of Independence (DOI) Road Trip was founded as a three-and-a-half year cross-country tour whose mission was to engage and energize all Americans, particularly young people, by bringing this rare copy of nothing less than the nation’s birth certificate to them — to where they live, small town or big city. This non-profit nonpartisan project inspired Americans to participate in civic activism, to exercise their rights and to vote.

With the indispensable help of architect David Rockwell, philanthropists Ken Langone and Bob Nardelli, and Postmaster General John C. Potter, whose Postal Service became the tour’s “official carrier,” the multimedia exhibition presented the document in both historical and contemporary contexts. Historical and current photographs, video and music illustrated the lasting values and ideals embodied by the revered document that first set forth the celebrated words “We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal.” The exhibition also highlighted social and political movements that helped shape the United States and continue to influence countries around the world.

The exhibit also featured a reading of the Declaration of Independence from inside Independence Hall in Philadelphia by a group of distinguished actors, including Morgan Freeman, Kathy Bates, Benicio Del Toro, Michael Douglas, Whoopi Goldberg, Graham Greene, Ming-Na, Edward Norton, Winona Ryder, Mel Gibson, Kevin Spacey, and Renee Zellweger.

During the decade that the Lears owned and toured the document, it traveled to some 100 cities in all 50 states plus the District of Columbia, with special stops at the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City, the Super Bowl in New Orleans, the Daytona 400 NASCAR race, Mount Rushmore, and the Oklahoma City National Memorial, along with visits to more than a half dozen Presidential libraries.



Declare Yourself

Declare Yourself was a national nonpartisan, nonprofit campaign to empower and encourage every eligible 18-29 year-old in America to register and vote. It grew out of the Declaration of Independence Road Trip that toured an original 1776 copy of the Declaration to schools, town halls, and other locations all over the country, ultimately visiting some 100 cities in all 50 states.

Using the power of strategic media and retail partnerships, celebrity spokespeople, and most importantly, mobile and Internet technology, Declare Yourself's campaign blanketed the landscape of popular culture, as well as universities and high schools, with a simple, clear message: REGISTER and VOTE!

Declare Yourself registered almost 4 million young people via on-line registration, on-location efforts and Ultimate College Bowl contest, contributing significantly to the unprecedented turnout of youth voters in the 2008 Presidential Election – 24 million, a major increase from 2004.

 

Born Again American

Born Again American was an initiative of Declare Yourself committed to the rebirth and re-expression of citizenship through informed and thoughtful activism.

As it looked increasingly likely that America was about to elect its first black president, Norman Lear and Keith Carradine met at a dinner party one evening.  Carradine picked up a guitar and began playing some Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie songs.  He asked about PFAW, the DOI Road Trip and Declare Yourself, which prompted Mr. Lear to say the whole thing was like “a Born Again American experience for me.”

“There’s a song in that phrase,” Carradine said, and a week later he’d written “I’m a Born Again American.”

Just a workin’ man without a job
It got shipped off to China via Washington, D.C.
And I know I’m nothin’ special, there are plenty more like me
Just the same
I thought I knew the rules of the game
I stood up for this country that I love
I came back from the desert to a wife and kids to feed
I’m not sayin’ Uncle Sam should give me what I need
My offer stands
I’ll pull my weight you give me half a chance

I went up to a congressman and said to him “you know
Our government is letting people down”
He said he’d need a lot of help to buck the status-quo
I said there was a bunch of us around

I’m a Born Again American, conceived in Liberty
My Bible and the Bill of Rights, my creed’s equality
I’m a Born Again American, my country ‘tis of me
And everyone who shares the dream from sea to shining sea

My brother’s welding chassis at the plant 
He’s earning what our granddad did in 1948
While CEOs count bonuses behind the castle gates
How can they see
When all they care about’s the do re mi

It’s getting where there’s nowhere left to turn
Not since the crash of twenty-nine have things been so unfair
So many of our citizens are living in despair
The time has come
To reaffirm that hope’s not just for some

The promise of America’s surrendering to greed
The rule is just look out for number one
But brace yourself ‘cause some of us have sown a different seed
A harvest of the spirit has begun

I’m a Born Again American conceived in liberty
My Bible and The Bill Of Rights
My creed’s equality
A Born Again American, my country ‘tis of me
And everyone who shares the dream from sea to shining sea

It’s clear my country’s soul is on the line
She’s hungering for something that she lost along the way
The principle the framers called upon us to obey
That in this land
The people’s will must have the upper hand

I felt the calling once before and took a sacred vow
And faithful to that vow I have remained
I hear the calling once again, my country needs me now
And to her cause I have been re-ordained

I’m a Born Again American conceived in liberty
My Bible and the Bill Of Rights, all people living free 
A Born Again American, my country ‘tis of me
And everyone who shares the dream 
From sea to shining sea
And everyone who shares the dream
From sea to shining sea
A M E R I C A

It took the efforts of Director Mark Johnson of Playing for Change, Producer Brent Miller, and 16 performers and two choruses to bring Keith’s song to life in 14 iconic locations around the USA. The singers and musicians, non-professionals all, were chosen because they were living the lyrics in these troubled times, not just performing them.

The film of the song was introduced in January 2009 at PFAW’s pre-Inauguration event.