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American exceptionalism

Tolerance and American Exceptionalism

In a new essay published by the Claremont Review of Books, Richard Samuelson makes the case for “American exceptionalism,” arguing that America’s national identity is rooted in the Constitution rather than a unified culture. Owing to the Constitution’s embrace of universal rights, America is more tolerant of minority groups than most other nations, Samuelson argues.

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And the flag was still there…

As Americans celebrate the successful landing of NASA’s Curiosity rover on the surface of Mars yesterday (view some early images from the Red Planet here), we thought it appropriate to share this recent article in The Atlantic that takes a look at our nation’s lasting impact on another celestial body: the Moon.

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Stories to make you feel great about America

Writing in the Atlantic last week, Jeffrey Goldberg points to some recent news stories that “will leave even the most committed cynic slack-jawed in wonder at America’s promise.”

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Celebrating Armed Forces Day

“On Armed Forces Day, let us salute the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen who perform their duties with impeccable courage, commitment, and character, and recognize our moral obligation to serve them and their families as well as they have served us.”

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Noemie Emery on the importance of a national character

In the Washington Examiner, Noemie Emery provides a good reminder of the importance of the American national character in celebration of Independence Day:

“Who are we?” ask Leon Kass, Amy Kass and Diana Schaub at the start of “What So Proudly We Hail,” their anthology of works about the American character.

“How do we identify ourselves? … What larger community and ideals are we willing to fight and to sacrifice? … What do we look up to and revere?” they ask.

She continues:

National character, says Michael Novak, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, makes a tangible entity out of a mob. “A mob is composed of a multitude of atomized individuals,” he tells us.

“A people is composed of persons who have social identity … a communion of souls” reaching back to antiquity, and looking ahead to the prospect of still greater things. This identity also has its own character….

Longings for freedom are indeed universal, but in 1776 they were embodied in a particular nation that fought for them in a particular war, embedded them in a unique form of government and fought for them in the last century in three brutal wars.

American exceptionalism does not mean Americans are better than others, that their record is spotless, that they never fail, falter or stray. It means Americans’ works in the interests of freedom are unique and unequaled. May they remain so.

Read the whole column.

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True Americanism

Yesterday, National Affairs magazine and the Hudson Institute’s Bradley Center for Philanthropy and Civic Renewal co-hosted the annual Bradley Symposium—an event devoted to a wonderful new anthology, What So Proudly We Hail: The American Soul in Story, Speech, and Song, edited by our own Leon Kass, his wife Amy, and Diana Schaub of Loyola College.

Joining Leon, Amy, and Diana to discuss a selection from the reader – Teddy Roosevelt’s speech, “True Americanism” – were a panel of luminaries: Harvey Mansfield, Charles Krauthammer, Robert P. George, Wilfred McClay, Senator Lamar Alexander, Daniel Henninger, Frank Hanna, Paul E. Singer, and Juan Williams.

The resulting discussion was lively and engaging as panelists hashed out questions of national identity, the American character, the role of civic education, and the virtues and aspirations of civic life. If you were unlucky enough to have missed it, you can watch it all at the link or after the jump.

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Daniel Bell, 1919-2011

Sociologist and essayist Daniel Bell on American exceptionalism:

[T]hough our future may be more uncertain than at any time in the past two hundred years, some enduring values of character and even a powerful thread of idealism persist. One senses, in reflecting on American history, that there was something exceptional about our nation’s history and the national character it created–exceptional not necessarily in being exempt from whatever “laws” of social evolution may exist, but in the sense of offering a “saving grace” (the theological term is appropriate) that may still make us exemplary for other nations.

Read more of Bell’s work at National Affairs.

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