Politics & Policy

Restoring Faith in American Exceptionalism

Affirming American greatness starts with defending the First Amendment.

In 2000 I was standing in for my boss at the time, then-representative John Shadegg (R., Ariz.), as I spoke to an AP Government class in Phoenix. It was the first time I had visited a high-school class on his behalf, but I had my spiel ready. I knew exactly how to kick it off: Raise your hand if you think ours is the greatest country in the world.

From there, I had planned to launch into a speech explaining that our democratic values, federalism, and respect for individual freedom made us great. Slight hiccup: Only half the class raised their hands. I was floored.

I don’t remember exactly what I said after that. I probably stuck fairly close to my script, but in my mind I was screaming, “What?! How could these kids not think ours was the greatest nation on earth?”

#ad#In every class that I spoke to after that, I always began with the same question, and I always received the same response. The Pew Research Center confirms that my anecdotal experience accurately reflects the reality. In a 2011 study, Pew found that only 32 percent of Millennials agreed with the statement that “the United States is the greatest country in the world,” while 64 percent of the Silent Generation believed that statement to be true.

In a February piece for National Journal titled “The End of American Exceptionalism,” Peter Beinart wrote: “When conservatives say American exceptionalism is imperiled, they’re on to something. In fundamental ways, America is becoming less exceptional. Where Gingrich and company go wrong is in claiming that the Obama presidency is the cause of this decline. It’s actually the result.” I agree.

From our education system to popular culture, America no longer recognizes and affirms its exceptionalism. As he departed the White House in 1989, Ronald Reagan warned: “Our spirit is back, but we haven’t reinstitutionalized it. We’ve got to do a better job of getting across that America is freedom — freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of enterprise. And freedom is special and rare. It’s fragile; it needs protection.”

This year, Reporters without Borders ranked the United States 46th in its World Press Freedom Index, just behind Romania. In the Heritage Foundation’s 2014 Index of Economic Freedom, the United States comes in 12th, considered “Mostly Free,” while Hong Kong, Singapore, and Australia top the list.

As our sense of American greatness declines, so too does our willingness to defend those very principles that make us so exceptional. The IRS limits the free speech of nonprofits, the government spies on citizens and journalists, and the White House bypasses Congress — the people’s representatives — legislating through executive order and federal-agency regulations. It’s a vicious cycle: Americans no longer believe our nation to be exceptional, we therefore elect politicians who make us less exceptional, and the qualities that made us great erode.

When America showed that a free democracy is the best and most productive form of government, the world followed. But now, as America loses its way, freedom stumbles around the world: in Syria, Iran, North Korea, Ukraine, and resurgent Russia.

Enter American Encore, an organization founded to remind Americans that, in the history of humanity, we are truly unique, “a nation conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” American Encore will remind Americans that freedom leads to prosperity, and that if we hope to advance as a society, we cannot take any freedoms for granted.

American Encore will begin by fighting back against the Obama administration’s assault on the First Amendment. After all, a nation founded upon ideas cannot hope to survive if it restricts free expression. 

— Sean Noble is president of American Encore, a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting free speech and economic freedom, and returning America to greatness.

Most Popular

Law & the Courts

The Last Trusted Prosecutor in Washington

John Durham may be the most consequential and least known figure in Washington right now. In May, U.S. attorney general William Barr selected Durham, a longtime prosecutor with a résumé so sterling it nearly glows, to investigate the origins of the special counsel’s probe into Russian interference in the ... Read More
Law & the Courts

The Last Trusted Prosecutor in Washington

John Durham may be the most consequential and least known figure in Washington right now. In May, U.S. attorney general William Barr selected Durham, a longtime prosecutor with a résumé so sterling it nearly glows, to investigate the origins of the special counsel’s probe into Russian interference in the ... Read More
World

WHO Failed

Since its inception 72 years ago almost to the day, the World Health Organization (WHO)  has been credited with the eradication of smallpox and the near eradication of other devastating illnesses, including leprosy and river blindness. This record of success makes the current corruption of the organization ... Read More
World

WHO Failed

Since its inception 72 years ago almost to the day, the World Health Organization (WHO)  has been credited with the eradication of smallpox and the near eradication of other devastating illnesses, including leprosy and river blindness. This record of success makes the current corruption of the organization ... Read More

The Eeyore Syndrome

In A. A. Milne's classic Winne-the-Pooh children’s tales, Eeyore, the old gray donkey, is perennially pessimistic and gloomy. He always expects the worst to happen. Milne understood that Eeyore’s outbursts of depression could at first be salutatory but then become monotonous. The outlook of the pessimist ... Read More

The Eeyore Syndrome

In A. A. Milne's classic Winne-the-Pooh children’s tales, Eeyore, the old gray donkey, is perennially pessimistic and gloomy. He always expects the worst to happen. Milne understood that Eeyore’s outbursts of depression could at first be salutatory but then become monotonous. The outlook of the pessimist ... Read More

The Trail Leading Back to the Wuhan Labs

It is understandable that many would be wary of the notion that the origin of the coronavirus could be discovered by some documentary filmmaker who used to live in China. Matthew Tye, who creates YouTube videos, contends he has identified the source of the coronavirus — and a great deal of the information that ... Read More

The Trail Leading Back to the Wuhan Labs

It is understandable that many would be wary of the notion that the origin of the coronavirus could be discovered by some documentary filmmaker who used to live in China. Matthew Tye, who creates YouTube videos, contends he has identified the source of the coronavirus — and a great deal of the information that ... Read More
World

How to Make China Pay

One of the big questions facing the international community today is how to hold China legally and politically accountable for all its dishonesty and harm to people around the world. According to reports, U.S. intelligence agencies have confirmed to the White House that China has deliberately understated the ... Read More
World

How to Make China Pay

One of the big questions facing the international community today is how to hold China legally and politically accountable for all its dishonesty and harm to people around the world. According to reports, U.S. intelligence agencies have confirmed to the White House that China has deliberately understated the ... Read More
Health Care

The Experts Lied to Us about Masks

When the stakes are highest, the truth counts the most. Or maybe when things get really serious, that’s when the people really can’t be trusted with the truth. It’s pretty clear which of these two ideas is the one that has been guiding elite medical, political, and journalistic institutions, isn’t it? ... Read More
Health Care

The Experts Lied to Us about Masks

When the stakes are highest, the truth counts the most. Or maybe when things get really serious, that’s when the people really can’t be trusted with the truth. It’s pretty clear which of these two ideas is the one that has been guiding elite medical, political, and journalistic institutions, isn’t it? ... Read More