Even before the United States became a nation in 1776, it had thrived under the American people—a fiercely independent people whose values were distinct and whose vision was far-reaching. The American Spirit, a new book coauthored by Dr. Ed Feulner, president of The Heritage Foundation, and Brian Tracy, celebrates those values that have made America great.

From the Founding Fathers to current generations, it is because of hard-working, God-fearing, values-driven Americans that the U.S. is an exceptional place to call home. In 20 fast-paced chapters, Feulner and Tracy highlight the core common beliefs that have become uniquely American, including freedom, faith, capitalism, respect for the individual, responsibility, and honesty.

As our nation confronts a sense of gloom in the face of enormous problems, too many Americans are unclear about why the U.S. is the greatest country on earth. Some might be tempted to conclude that America’s best days are behind it. The American Spirit takes a different view: Feulner writes, “What really makes Americans fundamentally different is that for every American, life starts off as a blank slate.”

American exceptionalism is not guaranteed. We must address our biggest problems—most notably the national debt and the ever-encroaching grasp of the federal government—in order for the American Spirit to live on in future generations.

“The optimists in America drive our entire society forward, inventing new medicines and technologies, solving problems, creating opportunities and jobs, and propelling America into the future,” the authors say in the chapter on optimism. Preserving our great nation will not happen by itself. We must name the values that have been our bedrock, affirming our foundation as we seek to build on it a better tomorrow.

The American Spirit, with insights on history, the Constitution, and where we stand today, is an ideal starting point to stay grounded.

Published in hardcover and for Kindle e-readers, The American Spirit (256 pages, Thomas Nelson, 2012) is available at AmericanSpiritBook.com and at bookstores everywhere.