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- A nation that should never do wrong must necessarily govern the world.
- John Adams, Journal entry (6 August 1796)
- Powerful states have quite typically considered themselves to be exceptionally magnificent, and the United States is no exception to that.
- America is great because America is good.
- Hillary Clinton, Speech at the 2016 Democratic National Convention (July 28, 2016)
- Perhaps there has been, at some point in history, some great power whose elevation was exempt from the violent exploitation of other human bodies. If there has been, I have yet to discover it. But this banality of violence can never excuse America, because ... America believes itself exceptional, the greatest and noblest nation ever to exist. ... One cannot, at once, claim to be superhuman and then plead mortal error. I propose to take our countrymen's claims of American exceptionalism seriously, which is to say I propose subjecting our country to an exceptional moral standard.
- Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me (2015), p. 8
- We are situated differently in this respect from any other country. All the other great powers have a comparatively homogeneous population, close kindred in race and blood and speech, and commonly little divided in religious beliefs. Our great Nation is made up of the strong and virile pioneering stock of nearly all the countries of the world. We have a variety of race and language and religious belief.
- We have about 50% of the world's wealth but only 6.3% of its population. ... In the face of this situation ... we should dispense with the aspiration to "be liked" or to be regarded as the repository of a high-minded international altruism. We should stop putting ourselves in the position of being our brothers' keeper and refrain from offering moral and ideological advice. We should cease to talk about vague and—for the Far East—unreal objectives such as human rights, the raising of the living standards, and democratization. The day is not far off when we are going to have to deal in straight power concepts. The less we are then hampered by idealistic slogans, the better.
- The cry that we have entered upon our imperial course in order to benefit the native populations in the lands that we have conquered is an old one. ... I have before me McKinley's proclamation to the Filipinos, and I have placed it side by side with a proclamation of the King of Assyria, written eighteen hundred years before Christ. A man would think that McKinley had plagiarized the idea from Asshurbanipal. ...
Each act of aggression, each new expedition of conquest is prefaced by a pronouncement containing a moral justification and an assurance to the victims of the imperial aggression that all is being done for their benefit.
- Every single empire in its official discourse has said that it is not like all the others, that its circumstances are special, that it has a mission to enlighten, civilize, bring order and democracy, and that it uses force only as a last resort. And, sadder still, there always is a chorus of willing intellectuals to say calming words about benign or altruistic empires, as if one shouldn't trust the evidence of one's eyes watching the destruction and the misery and death brought by the latest mission civilizatrice.
- From the dawn of history the oppressor has always insisted that oppression was good for the oppressed.
- Encyclopedic article on American exceptionalism at Wikipedia