The past few years the topic of American Exceptionalism has been tossed around quite a bit. So much so, and in so many different ways, that I began to wonder: exactly what is American Exceptionalism? (Eighth grade constitition class was a long time ago, after all.) Is it “I love me, I think I’m grand, at the show I hold my hand”? I was pretty sure that wasn’t it.
I don’t know how , or what it was that caused the light bulb to go on, but it finally clicked in my brain. It goes all the way back to the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” That’s it right there.
Dictionary.com defines unalienable as: not transferable to another or capable of being repudiated. Synonyms are: invioable, absolute, unassailable, inherent. These rights can never be taken away from us, nor can we give them up. They are not bestowed upon us by other men or any human institution. They come directly from our Creator.
A slogan of the Revolutionary War was “We recognize no Sovereign but God and no King but Jesus.” There was to be no soverereign nation or monarch over our nation or government. The war was fought so that we would not be beholden to any earthly power, and to place political power in the hands of the people. This is what was so revolutionary.
James Spalding, PhD., in Why Is America Exceptional? (Heritage.org) puts it like this: “Working from the principle of equality, the American Founders asserted that men could govern themselves according to common beliefs and the rule of law. Throughout history, political power was—and still is—often held by the strongest. But if all are equal and have the same rights, then no one is fit by nature to rule or to be ruled.”
Harry Truman , Oct. 26, 1948: “
Being an American is more than a matter of where you or your parents came from. It is a belief that all men are created free and equal.”
It is because of these principles that America has the ability to self-correct. It is why, throughout our history, we have asked God to bless America–so that we could continue to live in a country that has allowed Americans to be as ordinary or as exceptional as we choose to be.
God bless America.