American exceptionalism is the claim that the United States is inherently different from other nations. Its proponents argue that the values, political system, and historical development of the U.S. are unique in human history, often with the implication that the country is both destined and entitled to play a distinct and positive role on the world stage.
- A nation that should never do wrong must necessarily govern the world.
- John Adams, Journal entry (6 August 1796)
- We are, as Lincoln said, 'the last, best hope of earth.' We are not just one more nation, one more same entity on the world stage. We have been essential to the preservation and progress of freedom, and those who lead us in the years ahead must remind us, as Roosevelt, Kennedy, and Reagan did, of the unique role we play. Neither they nor we should ever forget that we are, in fact, exceptional.
- Dick Cheney, Exceptional: Why the World Needs a Powerful America, Threshold Editions, New York, 2015. pp. 259
- 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.
- To this day, the United States remains the only superpower capable, and at times willing, to commit real resources and make real sacrifices to build, sustain, and drive an international system committed to international law, democracy, and the promotion of human rights. Experience teaches that when the United States leads on human rights, from Nuremberg to Kosovo, other countries follow.
- Harold Hongju Koh, "On American Exceptionalism" 55 Stan. L. Rev. 1479 (2003) quote at p. 1487
- It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation. There are big countries and small countries, rich and poor, those with long democratic traditions and those still finding their way to democracy. Their policies differ, too. We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord's blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal.
- I, in my own mind, have thought of America as a place in the divine scheme of things that was set aside as a promised land. . . . Any person with the courage, with the desire to tear up their roots, to strive for freedom, to attempt and dare to live in a strange and foreign place, was welcome here.
- 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.
- The position of the Americans is therefore quite exceptional, and it may be believed that no other democratic people will ever be placed in a similar one.
- Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, (1840), part 2, p. 36
- Encyclopedic article on American exceptionalism on Wikipedia