I have been asked several times recently just what American Exceptionalism is. I have tried to explain it, but it is a concept like color, something easy to identify when seen, but hard to express in words. Instead, let me take this moment to tell you how I feel about what makes American Exceptionalism.
Two hundred and thirty four years ago, fifty-six men met in a hot and humid building in Philadelphia. After an intense debate that lasted months, they resolved to gamble their lives and property in the name of a new and dramatic concept. These men, elected to represent the people of the thirteen British colonies on the American continent, pledged to embark upon a great experiment, the formation of a self-governing democratic republic. Had they failed, they would have been hanged as traitors, their lands confiscated by the Crown, their fortunes forfeited, and their families left disgraced and left destitute. Against all odds, they succeeded, and the freest, safest, and most prosperous nation in the history of humankind was born.
The profit on their gamble was a nation where we enjoy the right to speak our minds, no matter how unpopular, without fear of government reprisal. We exercise our right to worship according to the dictates of our individual conscience. We celebrate our right to bear arms in defense of our freedom and ourselves. We have a right to be secure in our homes. If we become entangled with the law, we have a right not to be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process, which includes our right to a jury trial, to our right to a lawyer, to our right to not incriminate ourselves or be tortured. Our people are the most charitable in history, donating their personal time and money 14 times more than the average European. Through hard work and ingenuity they have built a free market, more prosperous than anywhere on earth.
Many Americans take those rights for granted without realizing the reality that they are rare, both in history and in the world today.
The principles of liberty are enshrined by our Founders in our Declaration of Independence, and later in the U.S. Constitution. They have led to an inconceivable level of prosperity, safety and happiness in this country that the rest of the world looks at in disbelief, and with envy.
On the Fourth of July, we celebrated our Independence Day—our freedom from oppressive government and our commitment to individual freedom.
Those qualities, those rights, that liberty, is what makes the concept of American Exceptionalism. It is the belief that America is something special. It is the knowledge that we are a shining beacon of light throughout the world and throughout the annals of history. We are the exception, not the rule.
On This Day in History:
1747, John Paul Jones born
1923, Nancy Reagen born
1785, US "Dollar" created by Congress
1983, US Supreme Court rules Social Security must pay retiring women the same as men