For the conclusion of our series highlighting the thoughts of conservative and libertarian leaders on American Independence and the Founding, we asked: What do you think makes America exceptional?
Lawrence W. Reed, President of the Foundation for Economic Education: America is exceptional because Americans after the Founding showed that they really did take their new freedoms seriously. They did not expect much from their new government, other than to protect the peace and otherwise leave them alone. They didn’t wait for government to show them how to build a vibrant civil society; they just did it, and to a greater extent than any people before or since. In the 19th Century, they settled the continent; they formed endless and powerful problem-solving, private entities; they cultivated the virtues necessary for freedom to survive; and they welcomed millions to their shores to share the freedom experience with them.
Matthew Spalding, Director of the B. Kenneth Simon Center for American Studies at The Heritage Foundation: America indeed is an exceptional nation, but not because of what it has achieved or accomplished. American is exceptional because it is fundamentally dedicated to the principles of human liberty, grounded on the truths that all men are created equal and endowed with equal rights—permanent truths “applicable to all men and all times,” as Abraham Lincoln once said. It was because of these principles that rather than ending in tyranny the American Revolution culminated in a constitutional government that has long endured.
America’s principles are responsible for a prosperous and just nation unlike any in the world. They explain why Americans strongly defend their country, look fondly to their nation’s origins, vigilantly assert their political rights and civic responsibilities, and remain convinced of the special meaning of their country and its role of the world. It is because of these principles, not despite them, that America has achieved its greatness.
To this day, so many years after the American Revolution, these principles—proclaimed in the Declaration of Independence and promulgated by the United States Constitution—still define America as a nation and a people. Which is why the friends of freedom the world over look to the United States not only as an ally against tyrants and despots everywhere but also as a powerful beacon to all those who strive for liberty and seek democratic self-government.