If we are to Renew American Leadership, it’s vital to understand how this magnificent country began and developed. The history of the United States offers literally hundreds of lessons for how a free society may be launched, developed, corrected, and then move to new levels of prosperity and leadership. Recapturing an appreciation of America’s past is the key to our future.
What Makes America Exceptional?
First we need to ask what has allowed this young nation to outperform so dramatically all the older nations on earth? What allowed the United States, in less than 250 years, to become an economic, cultural and military colossus that dwarfs every other country in recorded history? It’s certainly not our size. Russia and Canada have more land. China and India have more people. It’s not the length of our history. Nor is it our DNA. Americans are a composite of all races.
The answer is that America is exceptional because of the depth and breadth of our God-given freedom. Never before has a nation been conceived in liberty and then overcome so many obstacles to retain so much freedom for its citizens. The founding fathers gave America an amazing legacy of freedom and opportunity. America is exceptional because later generations eagerly accepted the founders’ gift and forged a unique American culture from it.
British-born Professor Patrick Allitt, of Emory University, has compiled an insightful list of nine distinctive characteristics that reveal the American character:
1. A lack of fatalism. The fates don’t rule here. If it’s broken, we must fix it.
2. A highly energetic approach to problem solving
3. A strong commitment to human equality and democracy
4. Belief in the boundless possibilities of economic growth
5. A strong dedication to mass education and literacy
6. A high expectation of progress—things will get better
7. A continuing desire to live up to our ideals
8. A potent blend of both practicality and idealism, and
9. A belief in equality of opportunity over equality of outcome