Posts Tagged ‘Exceptionalism’

A Brief Defense of American Exceptionalism

December 28, 2010 4 comments

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There is a lot of confusion surrounding the topic of American Exceptionalism these days, and much of it stems from the remarks of two Presidents.

Reagan referred to American Exceptionalism with the following profound words:

…I’ve spoken of the shining city all my political life, but I don’t know if I ever quite communicated what I saw when I said it. But in my mind it was a tall proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, wind-swept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace, a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity, and if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here. That’s how I saw it and see it still…

Contrast this with President Obama’s response to a reporter’s question about American Exceptionalism at a news conference in Strasbourg, France, in April 2009. The President’s response was, “”I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism,” Clearly the two men see a different America.

So what it so exceptional about America anyway, and are we being egotistical to laud this land as a beacon beyond any other?

I would encourage you to read the full entry at because it presents many of the gray areas, and contrasting views surrounding the use of this language, but I present here only the first paragraph of that article to illustrate the way most Conservatives view American Exceptionalism:

American exceptionalism is the idea that the United States and the American people hold a special place in the world, by offering opportunity and hope for humanity, derived from its unique balance of public and private interests governed by constitutional ideals that are focused on personal and economic freedom.

To many of us, this great experiment in Liberty continues to be that shining city on a hill of which Reagan spoke, and it continues to be the last, best hope for a free and prosperous world. Those who are quick to see America’s faults, but somehow miss her greatness do not see it this way.

It would seem that Progressives see America and her faults, and ask, “How dare she call herself Exceptional?” Conservatives, on the other hand, see America and her faults and ask, “How dare we allow America to be less than Exceptional?”