Is America Exceptional?

Julia Shaw /

The Drafting of the Declaration of Independence

At a G-20 conference in April 2009, President Obama was asked if America had a unique role in the world. Instead of explaining what makes America great (or even taking the usual tactic of apologizing for America’s greatness) the President  responded: “I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism . . [whatever America has] to offer the world does not lessen my interest in recognizing the value and wonderful qualities of other countries, or recognizing that we’re not always going to be right, or that other people may have good ideas, or that in order for us to work collectively, all parties have to compromise and that includes us.” Every nation thinks highly of itself, it seems, and America should get over the idea that it is anything special.

In a new publication entitled Why is America Exceptional?, Matthew Spalding takes a different view of America and her role in the world. Every nation, Spalding explains, “derives its meaning or purpose from some unifying quality—an ethnic character, a common religion, a shared history.” But America is different: it is a nation dedicated to a set of principles, proclaimed to be self-evident in the Declaration of Independence and secured in the United States Constitution. (more…)