Masaryk university faculty of education

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American Exceptionalism

As the title itself suggests, the notion of American exceptionalism stems from the idea or belief that America is many aspects different than other countries. Though it does not necessarily imply that the United States is superior to other nations, combined with America’s revolutionary beginnings, the notion of city upon a hill and advanced democracy, the term exceptional began to mean supreme. Both American exceptionalism and the city upon a hill notion have not only been pervasive within the political realm, but continue to live on through visual representations, such as on the American dollar (Image 1), which depicts an image of a pyramid, the eye of providence, and a Latin phrase “Annuit Coeptis,” which translates into “He [God] favors our undertaking.”

Image 1

Such symbols point back to the city upon a hill (the pyramid is a manmade hill), God watching (the eye) and Christian faith (In God we trust). Another example is the American tradition of the “pledge of allegiance”, which is recited every weekday by all American school children, strengthening the faith in American exceptionalism. Rhetorically, these concepts are pervasive in practically all political speeches, usually referring the United States as: a leader in democracy, supreme military power, protector of the weak, etc. Finally, the effect of American exceptionalism is perhaps most visible in crisis speeches, where these beliefs are used as reason for going to war. (Lipset)

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