By Roy W Harris

If asked what one thing crosses all walks of life and is essential to the success of every endeavor, what one thing would you choose? Some might choose the great inventions of mankind such as the wheel, electricity, the computer etc. Others might choose philosophy and the compiled knowledge and wisdom of mankind gained over thousands of years. Still others might choose great strides gained through medical discovery and the remedy of certain diseases, which plagued mankind since his beginning. All of the above are important and all have one thing in common. That one thing? They are successful because they were built on strong foundations. Foundations are crucial in every walk of life.

The term American Exceptionalism is not new, but in recent days has become the topic of renewed discussion and debate. Ian Tyrrell in his blog defines American Exceptionalism as the special character of the United States as a uniquely free nation based upon democratic ideals and personal liberty. Is America really an exceptional nation? I believe she is. 

Why is America an exceptional nation? 

There are many reasons we could allude to, but all flow from one tremendously important one, America’s foundation. America’s solid foundation consists of three great pillars upon which America was conceived, constructed, and continues to this day.

The first pillar of America’s foundation is the Declaration of Independence, adopted in Congress on July 4, 1776.

Declaration of Independence  When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation. We hold these truths to be selfevident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. –That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

Our founding fathers believed that God endows all men equally with specific rights. The belief in these rights guided our founding fathers in the creation of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution of United States, and the Bill of Rights. 

The Declaration of Independence spells out three God-given rights – life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Another way of saying this is every man should be able to live, be free to live as he chooses, and pursue avenues that he believes will bring him happiness. America is exceptional because it offers every man and woman an opportunity to pursue his or her hopes and dreams. They are not limited because of who their parents are or where they were born.

The second great pillar of America’s foundation is the United States Constitution. 

Preamble to the Constitution

We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union, Establish Justice, insure domestic tranquility provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America

The third great pillar of America’s foundation is the Bill of Rights.

The ability to amend the Constitution is found in Article 5. It provides a means to change the document as the governed saw the need. The first 10 amendments to the Constitution are affectionately known as the Bill of Rights. These 10 amendments provide safeguards for our individual freedoms, which make this nation different from any other on the face of the earth now and in all of recorded history.

Bill of Rights

First Amendment – Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Second Amendment – A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

Third Amendment – No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner; nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.

Fourth Amendment – The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Fifth Amendment – No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself; nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation.

Sixth Amendment – In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed; which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor; and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.

Seventh Amendment – In Suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury shall be otherwise reexamined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of common law.

Eighth Amendment – Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

Ninth Amendment – The enumeration in the Constitution of certain rights shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

Tenth Amendment – The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

But one thing is for sure… Is America an exceptional nation? You bet she is. America may not be perfect, none of us are. One thing is for sure, we should be thankful to live in America where we are afforded life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness guaranteed in writing.

Angel Kane - Kane & Crowell Family Law Center

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