What Makes America Exceptional?

Statue of Liberty
Image: Pixabay

Have you ever thought of why America is exceptional? Why is the American public referred to as exceptional? Have you noticed the blowback when those terms are uttered? One would think that the most divisive comment in the world is American exceptionalism. So many are offended by the notion that Americans think they are better than anyone else, even though we do not!

Does the statement imply that we are better than the British, the Kenyans, the Mexicans, the Japanese or even the French? Well even with the French, American Exceptionalism does not imply we are better. One needs to reject the entire premise that the statement is about nationality. Why? American citizens represent every ethnic group, every religious group and every nationality in the world, and yet, there is still American Exceptionalism.

As noted in the Five Truths of the Declaration of Independence, all men are created equal. But that does not mean there will ever be equal outcomes. Many variables effect outcome. The God given rights of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness effect outcome. The form of government created which governs the society effects the outcome as well.

So, what makes American Exceptionalism? The answer is simple. The answer is not about the people, the answer lies in the environment in which the people live, in which the people prosper.

American Exceptionalism is based on the sole fact, that in the history of the world, the United States is and remains the only Nation ever where a government was created whose sole purpose was to protect the God-given rights of the citizens as stated in the Declaration of Independence; and that government was codified by a written Constitution approved by We the People.

Unfortunately, many reject the notion of American Exceptionalism, they believe it means perfection, at least that is the basis of their argument. Many would rather point to the short comings of America, her foundation, her government and her people. You will notice that these detractors of American Exceptionalism will never compare American freedoms with that of any other Nation.

The world recognizes American Exceptionalism. Immigrants to this great Nation understand the concept of American Exceptionalism. These immigrants’ risk everything for the opportunity of becoming part of the American fabric. They understand that we can improve, but when they compare their birthplace to the true Land of Opportunity, there is no comparison. These people understand what the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution created, a land of freedom.


Life, liberty and the Pursuit of happiness is a way of life in this Nation, it is different for all. As a society, we tend to forget the greatness of the Constitution, what that document meant in 1787 and how that document provides a magnet for millions across the globe to seek the greatness of American Exceptionalism.

What are the benefits of American Exceptionalism? Let’s explore the answer from the eyes of an immigrant in terms of the basic God given rights as outlined in the Declaration of Independence. In many parts of the globe, life is precious, life is fleeting, it can be snatched away without a warning. That is not the case in America.

Liberty, both economically and personally, is foreign to many people. Slave trade flourishes, working as an indentured servant is a way of life. In many Nations, being born to the lowest rung of the economic ladder means dying on that rung. Millions risk life and limb to obtain a chance at liberty and upward mobility.

This Nation was founded in part on people escaping oppression, where they did not know which tyrant would rule the day. Many people flock to this Nation because of fair general elections, where the power is transferred through the popular vote and not a special family. Immigrants understand the relative safety of a military controlled by an elected branch of government, versus the brother of a tyrant. Immigrants understand that laws are passed with the approval of the majority, versus the greed of a few.

When immigrants look at this Nation, they see States which are different, have different priorities, yet have the Law and Order necessary to exist next to a State which is very different. They see different local Laws, yet they see a common Law for everyone in the Nation.

Many immigrants escape a life where for any reason they could be collected by the local officials and placed in jail or punished by loss of limb, never knowing who the accuser was, what the charge was or given an opportunity to defend oneself.

Other immigrants come to this Nation because they can own something. They can purchase their castle; they can protect that castle and raise their children in the religion of their choice. They can sleep at night knowing that they understand the Law, and that it will not be used to steal their hard work. They work countless hours per week in a convenience store, a liquor store or somewhere else knowing that someday their children will graduate as doctors, lawyers or engineers.


Others come because they have an idea, they have a dream and they are confident that given the chance they can make that dream come through. And they know, that for a period, that invention, that creation, that song, those individual achievements will be theirs, versus some tyrant.

If the Declaration of Independence is one bookend supporting the concept of freedom and American Exceptionalism, the Constitution is the other bookend. American citizens and immigrants understand this. Both realize that American Exceptionalism is a way of life secured by the rights of life, liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness as codified in writing in the United States Constitution.

Unfortunately, the reality of today places American Exceptionalism in jeopardy. More on that later.

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