President Obama has finally stopped ignoring the Declaration of Independence altogether, but he still seems averse to certain elements of the founding document. In his remarks to the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute annual awards gala, President Obama stressed the importance of Hispanics in American history, and declared that what “made us all Americans” was “faith and fidelity to the shared values that we all hold so dear.”

He continued: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, endowed…with certain inalienable rights: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”. These are indeed unifying truths, but President Obama has taken artistic license with the Declaration. He conspicuously omits “endowed by their Creator”—and instead pauses, scowls, and seems to wait a moment (perhaps until the teleprompter rolls onto the next phrase?).

This omission should not be surprising. It is consistent with the progressive understanding of government as the true source of rights – a role which validates expanding welfare, universal health care, and, generally, a government that knows what is best for the people. The “living” theory of the Constitution follows directly from the evolving concept of rights advanced by progressives over the course of the twentieth century. The president ought to brief his speech writers regarding the progressive idea of rights. It would save him from such awkward moments.