America's story begins with certain statements in the Declaration of Independence that we have believed, from the very beginning, are "self-evident." The story we "tell ourselves about ourselves" starts with a claim that "all persons 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, and that to secure these rights, Governments are instituted, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed."
In the Constitution, with the Bill of Rights and the other Amendments to the Constitution included, we tell ourselves exactly how we have "instituted" the government that is committed to the truths contained in the Declaration. That form of government is a type of "self-government," established as a system of divided powers, with powers divided as between the three branches of the federal government, and with the power of the federal government deferring, in fundamental ways, to the separate governmental powers of each one of the states. Our Constitution contains a Bill of Rights, defying as illegitimate any claim by our government that it can truncate or limit our unalienable rights. The Constitution of the United States is the story that America tells itself about what democratic self-government requires.
Finally, after a Civil War in which over 600,000 Americans died, a war that posed a fundamental challenge to the commitments contained in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, Abraham Lincoln confirmed America's dedication to the story that America "tells itself about itself." His stirring words in the Gettysburg Address recommitted the nation to what the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution had proclaimed as "our story." Here is Lincoln, confirming and summing up our story:That we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.