By Mark Rhoads -
President Obama seemed to change his tune dramatically in a speech at West Point on May 28. Now he says he does believe in American Exceptionalism with "every fiber" of his being. But only a few years ago in 2010 he was dissing the idea that American was exceptional compared with other nations. So maybe it might help to clarify for the president what many people mean when they say America is exceptional and how it is unique among many nations.
I would begin by saying the very idea of America is exceptional in the history of nations. Here for the first time our founders celebrated the idea that people can govern themselves within the rule of law and protected by rights given to them by the hand of God or "endowed by their Creator" with inalienable rights are the Declaration of Independence preamble words it.
Our specific rights are enumerated in our Constitution of 1789. This is rare among nations. Great Britain has no written constitution or bill of rights. The so-called EU constitution is a mish mash of treaties that do not spell out specific individual rights for the citizen against the power of the state. So even among western democracies, America is still exceptional.
Our system of checks and balances among the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government is also unique.
Beyond the era of the founders is the fact that America has never entered a war to gain territory. Even after the U.S. was victorious in the Spanish-American War of 1898, America still paid Spain for some former Spanish posessions and American gave independence to the Philippines in 1946. American taxpayers gave away millions of dollars to help Europe recover from World War I and gave away billioins of dollars more in the Marshall Plan to help Europe recover frm World War II. No western democracy can claim a similar effort to help allied nations all over the world. Not merely the ideals of America but the mostly unselfish deeds of America make it exceptional among nations.
The fact that President Obama did not understand the nature of American exceptionalism when he first addressed this topic a few years ago is amazing and we can all pray that his conversion this week is more real than cosmetic.