Nasser Kazeminy of Manhattan is the chairman of the nonprofit National Ethnic Coalition of Organizations.
How would the Declaration of Independence read if the Founding Fathers had to write it using the shorthand of today's fast-paced social media?
And what would the Declaration have looked like if John Adams of Massachusetts could have simply texted Thomas Jefferson of Virginia that he was using the cloud to distribute his seventh draft of the document to the entire Congress for their markups and edits?
It's not merely a thought experiment. Just look at the events taking place around the globe to gain a measure of insight. How we process information has been dramatically transformed through 21st-century creations such as Facebook and Twitter. Regimes have fallen or are now teetering, having become roadkill on the sides of these information superhighways. Despots are discovering that, despite their best efforts using tanks and troops, citizens are using technology to communicate directly among themselves, creating grassroots movements that demand the benefits of democracy.
We've only just begun to see the results of this transformative political process propelled by simple tweets and texts that press the case for freedom.
So what would that extraordinary author of written democratic principles, Thomas Jefferson, have thought of the 140 characters that make up the tweets that, in turn, have become nation-changing narratives? Already a master of brevity, insight and clarity, how would he have used social media to present his concept that all men being created equal is a self-evident truth?
His colleague, Benjamin Franklin, would most certainly have embraced the Information Age. Franklin created one of the first successful newspapers in Philadelphia, which ultimately became known as the Saturday Evening Post. He intimately knew the power of the narrative in politics, regardless of its medium.
Twitter-limited or not, the words written by Jefferson 235 years ago this summer still speak to us: "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. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed."
Many of today's immigrants who arrive on American shores can recite by heart the words and principles that sparked the American Revolution. For them, born under a foreign flag, these aren't distant and remote principles recited by rote during an elementary school play. Rather, the Declaration has served as a genuine beacon of hope for many -- a living reminder that democracy not only strengthens, improves and celebrates the human condition, but is an "unalienable Right."
In an effort to insert the Declaration of Independence into the Twitter conversation, the National Ethnic Coalition of Organizations has challenged social media participants around the world to distill, through their own words, what this proclamation of freedom means to them. In 140 characters. Can they define the Declaration's essential concepts through that confining yet liberating online environment? Far from a tongue-in cheek experiment, it's an acknowledgment that the medium helps keep the message alive, relevant and part of an American political debate that's been continuing for 235 years.
And yet, it's equally important to remember that those who signed the Declaration of Independence were well-established men of society, with property, wealth and a future that would have only been enhanced by maintaining the status quo. These men met for weeks -- in person -- in a city drenched by heat to sign a document that reminded the signatories that "for the support of this Declaration, with firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our Sacred Honor."
It's a pledge that still speaks to anyone around the world who picks up an electronic device to speak out on behalf of freedom.
OMG. Sign here. Here and here. Brave Americans in Philly.