What does "all men are created equal" mean?

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Michael Ugulini eNotes educator| Certified Educator

"All men are created equal" means that each person born has a right to pursue everything and anything in this world and its societies as much as the next person. In essence, it means that no one has exclusive rights. With all men created equal in a right and just society there is no fear that others will usurp the rights of others.

However, in reality, while all men are created equal, some members of society have greater opportunity than others. This could be because of greater health, a better upbringing in a higher class, more money, greater education, and so on. Therefore, these members of society, while not to be thought of as better than anyone else, do often have an edge when it comes to securing the good things in life—be that wealth, physical assets, higher education, a high-paying career position, and so on.

This does not take away from the fact that at birth, we are all of the human family and no one is to be favored over another. Circumstances may occur that deal some people a bad hand in life and they never attain their potential. Others seem to be born with a silver spoon in their mouths and find attaining goals in life easy. Nonetheless, one of the one group is not any better than one of the other group. Time and chance happen to all. Some reap great rewards in life and others do not.

Some work hard and realize their goals; others work hard and may not attain their goals. The takeaway is that, regardless of circumstances, birthright, education, intelligence, street-smarts and whatnot, each person is created equal and not one is created to be looked upon as better than another. It is life in all its complexities, puzzlements, and idiosyncrasies that makes it seem that some are better than others—or were created to achieve more.

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mrstoker eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Even from the beginning the idea of "all men are created equal" was not the catchall statement people take it to be. In reality it may have been more correct to say "all white land-owning men are created equal." Even in its more literal translation there is still some dishonesty. 

Looking at the way our electoral system here in the United States works, you will find the first flaw in that statement. Our voting system stems from the idea of all men NOT being created equal by virtue of the electoral college. In its origination the idea of the electoral college was to ensure that the electors of our leaders were well educated and respected members of society. In a way, the existence of the electoral college says that the general population cannot be trusted with such an important task and therefore are not equal to those who make up the electoral college. The second flaw can be found in the way money is raised and spent in campaigns. Because money is currently viewed as a form of speech and thus protected under the 1st amendment, we run into a new problem. The more money you have, the more freedom you have. Obviously anyone has the chance to become rich but very few actually see the day where they can throw millions of dollars at a campaign to make sure their interests are being protected, which is inherently unequal. In general all you have to do is look at our "democracy" here in the United States to see just how unequal men and women truly are.