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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

On Mondays, we bring you This I Believe, our series on personal convictions. Today, our essayist is Andrew Sullivan. He was the editor of The New Republic for five years. As a self-described conservative, he writes about politics and social issues and is a strong advocate of gay rights. Here, series curator, independent producer Jay Allison.

JAY ALLISON reporting:

Andrew Sullivan was born in England and has a immigrant's love for the ideals of America. He draws his convictions straight from the Declaration of Independence, a fitting source for this Fourth of July. His anthem is to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Here is Andrew Sullivan with his essay for This I Believe.

Mr. ANDREW SULLIVAN:

I believe in life. I believe in treasuring it as a mystery that will never be fully understood, as a sanctity that should never be destroyed, as an invitation to experience now what can only be remembered tomorrow. I believe in its indivisibility, in the intimate connection between the newest bud of spring and the flicker in the eye of a patient near death, between the athlete in his prime and the quadriplegic vet, between the fetus in the womb and the mother who bears another life in her own body.

I believe in liberty. I believe that within every soul lies the capacity to reach for its own good, that within every physical body, there endures an unalienable right to be free from coercion. I believe in a system of government that places that liberty at the center of its concerns, that enforces the law solely to protect that freedom that sides with the individual against the claims of family and tribe and church and nation, that sees innocence before guilty and dignity before stigma.

I believe in the right to own property, to maintain it against the benign suffocation of a government that would tax more and more of it away. I believe in freedom of speech, the right to offend and blaspheme as well as the right to convert and bear witness. I believe that these freedoms are connected, the freedom of the fundamentalist and the atheist, the female and the male, the black and the Asian, the gay and the straight.

I believe in the pursuit of happiness, not entertainment nor its final definition but its pursuit. I believe in the journey, not the arrival, in conversation, not monologues, in multiple questions rather than any single answer. I believe in the struggle to remake ourselves and challenge each other in the spirit of eternal forgiveness, in the awareness that none of us knows for sure what happiness truly is but each of us knows the imperative to keep searching.

I believe in the possibility of surprising joy, of serenity through pain, of homecoming through exile. And I believe in a country that enshrines each of these three things, a country that offers nothing but the promise of being more fully human and never guarantees a success. In that constant failure to arrive, imply that at the very beginning, lies the possibility of a permanently fresh start, an old newness, a way of revitalizing ourselves and our civilization in ways few foresaw and one day many will forget, but the point is now and the place is America.

ALLISON: Andrew Sullivan reading his essay for This I Believe.

You can read and hear all the essays in our series and find out how to contribute one of your own at our Web site, npr.org.

For This I Believe, I'm Jay Allison.

MONTAGNE: Next Monday on "All Things Considered," an essay from Phyllis Alan(ph), a listener in Ft. Worth, Texas.

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