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American exceptionalism

The idea of exceptionalism gives Americans the mistaken idea that we have managed to avoid the endemic problems besetting other nations, as well as the dilemmas of the human condition generally, as Frederick Douglass argued.

I believe that the greatness of the United States is not rooted in the country’s original governing institutions. Nor is the nation’s genius located in its Founding Fathers whose destructive errors of judgement set the nation on a chaotic road to Disunion. 

How do we define the soul of the American nation, the principles that bind us together?

Editor's Note: Jon Meacham is a Pulitzer Prize-winning historian and a former Executive Editor and Executive Vice President at Random House.

To say America is exceptional does not imply superiority, but acknowledges that the nation taught the world how to transfer power peacefully and translate individual liberty into a governing creed. 

Imagine it is April 30, 1789, a sunny spring day, and you are a European who has traveled to New York to see the inauguration of George Washington as the first president of the United States.

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