American Exceptionalism

6 June 2016

“Understanding the meaning of American exceptionalism is indispensable for anyone who wants to understand what it has meant to be an American.” (Charles Murray) American exceptionalism is the idea that the United States is exceptionally different then other countries in qualitative ways.

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This theory can be traced to writer Alexis de Tocqueville who was the first to state that America is ‘exceptional.’ Many historical figures have used this term in speeches, writing, etc. A popular saying that demonstrates American exceptionalism is “city upon a hill” which was stated by John F. Kennedy.

There are two sides to this concept: those who agree and those who disagree. Where does this idea of being genuinely different play a role in the controversial issue of intervening in Syria? The United States of America is considered exceptional for many reasons.

It is overall fundamentally different then other nations around the world. People from all across the globe have dreams of moving to America and creating better lives in a more diverse and free area. In John F. Kennedy’s “City Upon a Hill” speech he described the country as a model to others and a beacon light due to the quality of people and leaders that inhabit it.

When Ronald Reagan addressed the American Bar Assn. he discussed the issue of terrorism and how people wish to take America down because of its potential threat. Even Admiral Yamamoto warned Japan that he feared “we have only awakened a sleeping giant” after Pearl Harbor.

Within the first century after the Constitution went into effect, European observers and Americans alike saw the United States as exceptional, with political and cultural aspects like no other. The concept of American exceptionalism has become associated with the idea of superiority and emotional judgments. Many people argue against the theory because of how corrupt America is socially and how much it has changed since the first grasp of exceptionalism.

European elites have always disagreed that American exceptionalism is a positive idea. Vladimir Putin disagreed with Obama’s description of Americans as exceptional and stated that God created all equal. Many PC’s were created with the title ‘American Exceptionalism’ which ridiculed the idea and presented a view of agreement with Putin. Syria is a controversial topic that is being discussed presently worldwide.

The United States would be in a better place if they did not intervine. American exceptionalism is more of a pride and patriotism theory that does not give the right of getting involved in other nation’s business. Putin made an interesting point when he said that trying to help would result in more innocent victims and a potentially larger conflict beyond Syria’s borders.

Killing people who kill people does not prove that killing people is wrong. Terrorism has always been an issue globally and intervening in Syria could start something bigger than ever thought possible. In summary, American exceptionalism is a theory that the United States is special due to its uniquely free ideals based on liberty and democracy.

This applies to Syria in that Americans may be fundamentally different but intervening would cause more loss and suffrage. Russia is also an ally to the United States that do not support involvement. With this being said, exceptionalism does not come before the losing lives even if it is in other nations.


“American Enterprise Institute.” American Exceptionalism. N.p., 2013. Web. 29 Sept. 2013. .

Fisher, Max. “9 Questions about Syria You Were Too Embarrassed to Ask.” The Washington Post. N.p., 29 Aug. 2013. Web. 28 Sept. 2013. .

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