A Living Document
NPR's Annual Reading of the Declaration of Independence

audio Listen to the reading from Morning Edition.

See a multimedia slide show of the NPR people who read the Declaration.

The Declaration of Independence

The Declaration of Independence
Photo: National Archives

July 4, 2002 -- Fourteen years ago today, Morning Edition launched what has become an Independence Day tradition: hosts, reporters, newscasters and commentators reading the Declaration of Independence.

The idea came from former Morning Edition director Sean Collins, who remembered seeing the Declaration and its "very powerful writing" printed on the front page of his grandmother's small-town newspaper. NPR staffers clamor to be included in the annual reading: "It's considered an honor," says Morning Edition Director Barry Gordemer, who assembled audio clips of the 27 individuals reading. It's not an easy assignment: some words that sounded natural two centuries ago don't roll off the tongue today. The NPR staff is often reminded to resist the urge to edit Thomas Jefferson's original material.

The segment gets no special introduction on the air: "We wanted Jefferson's words to speak for themselves," Collins said. And the music behind the words — another NPR tradition — is "On the Threshold of Liberty" by Mark Isham.


Here is the original text of the Declaration (with links to more information about the NPR people who performed the reading).

The Declaration of Independence

Bob Edwards
Bob Edwards
Host
Morning Edition

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.


Carl Kasell
Carl Kasell
Newscaster


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.

Jean Cochran
Jean Cochran
Newscaster
Morning Edition


--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,

Renée Montagne
Renée
Montagne

Special Correspondent
Morning Edition


--That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

Anne Garrels
Anne Garrels
Foreign Correspondent


Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.

Elizabeth Arnold
Elizabeth
Arnold

Nat'l Political Correspondent


But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

Mike Shuster
Mike Shuster
Diplomatic Correspondent


--Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

Madeleine Brand
Madeleine
Brand

Correspondent


He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good. He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

Juan Williams
Juan
Williams

Senior
Correspondent


He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

Richard Harris
Richard Harris
Science Correspondent


He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

Red Barber
Red Barber
the late sportscaster
Morning Edition, 1980-1992*


He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people. He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

Cheryl Corley
Cheryl Corley
Senior Reporter


He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

Nina Totenberg
Nina
Totenberg

Legal Affairs Correspondent


He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers. He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries. He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.

Neal Conan
Neal Conan
Host, Talk of the Nation


He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures. He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.

David Molpus
David Molpus
Workplace Correspondent


He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

Brenda Wilson
Brenda Wilson
Senior Correspondent, Editor


For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us: For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

Baxter Black
Baxter Black
Commentator


For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world: For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent: For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:

Richard Gonzales
Richard
Gonzales

Correspondent
San Francisco


For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:

Ina Jaffe
Ina Jaffe
Senior Correspondent
Los Angeles Bureau


For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments: For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

Susan Stamberg
Susan
Stamberg

Special Correspondent


He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us. He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

Ted Clark
Ted Clark
Diplomatic Correspondent


He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

Barbara Bradley
Barbara
Bradley

Washington Correspondent


He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

Andy Bowers
Andy Bowers
Correspondent
Los Angeles


He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

Howard Berkes
Howard Berkes
Correspondent
Salt Lake City


In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Alex Chadwick
Alex Chadwick
Correspondent
Morning Edition


Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence.

Claudio Sanchez
Claudio
Sanchez

Education Correspondent


They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

Cokie Roberts
Cokie Roberts
Senior News Analyst


We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do.

Bob Edwards

And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

(Additional commentary:) Two hundred twenty-six years ago today, the Continental Congress adopted Thomas Jefferson's draft of the Declaration of Independence. On July 4th, 1776, George III, king of England, wrote in his diary, "Nothing of importance happened today."




Other Resources

• For more information on the Declaration of Independence, visit the National Archives Web site.

*Red Barber photo from the exhibition "NPR Exposure," © Murray Bognovitz