This Independence Day marks the 236th year since 56 courageous men signed the Declaration of Independence from Great Britain. Pledging their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor, these Founding Fathers embodied the spirit of what is now known as American Exceptionalism.
A City Upon A Hill, produced by Citizens United, explores the concept of American Exceptionalism from its origin to the present day. The idea of America as an exceptional nation began with John Winthrop, a leader of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, who urged his fellow settlers in 1630 to create a “city upon a hill,” a model community for the world. This wasn’t a coronation, but a challenge and an opportunity that has been seized upon by great American leaders ever since.
The United States is an exceptional nation that stands above all others because of its unique devotion to freedom and opportunity. At the time of our founding no other country had adopted the radical ideals of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. No other nation had declared, “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.” In the American understanding, our rights are not gifts or privileges conferred by kings or legislatures; they are endowments that we’ve received from God Himself. The government didn’t give them to us and the government cannot take them away.
Whereas revolution led to anarchy in France, the American Revolution produced a culture of freedom and individual rights. The states united to form a government of the people, by the people, and for the people to secure the blessings of liberty. The founders devised an ingenious system of checks and balances intended to place limits on government in a way that allows individuals to maximize their talents to produce a successful, prosperous, and free society.
During his travels in 1831, French writer Alexis de Tocqueville recognized this. He observed that America was an exceptional nation with a special role to play in human history. Tocqueville wrote that, unlike Europe, where social standing defined a citizen, America was a new republic where liberty, equality, individualism, and laissez faire economics defined the “American creed.” Tocqueville came to America because he thought it was an exceptional place; it was a democratic republic at a time when most of Europe was monarchical. He saw in the United States a culture arising out of limited government that was unlike anything he had ever seen.
Is America still such a place? Unfortunately, President Barack Obama and liberals in Congress want to move America to a European style of socialism. From Egypt to France, President Obama went on an apology tour telling global leaders that America is just one of many exceptional nations, and that we are not unique. He infamously said, “I believe in American Exceptionalism just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism.”
The cause of freedom is the cause of America. Each of us must be prepared to meet great challenges to ensure that we remain a safe, free, and prosperous nation. As President Ronald Reagan said, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction.” As we celebrate our Independence Day and honor those who have fought and died to preserve it, we must resolve to “keep” our republic and the spirit of American Exceptionalism that our Founding Fathers passed down to us.