Though America may be in a rut, Heritage Foundation president Ed Feulner has an optimistic Fourth of July message for you: We’re still exceptional.
“America is exceptional because as immigrants from 194 countries over the years, we have shown it is the only place where you can come and start off with a clean slate,” he told The Daily Caller in an interview about his new book, “The American Spirit: Celebrating the Virtues and Values that Make us Great,” co-authored with Brian Tracy.
“In effect, you can define your own future. You can be whatever is possible as long as you are willing to work hard for it and make it happen on your own behalf. You are not automatically cast into a class system or a certain level of society which you can’t rise out of. You can really make a difference.”
“In short, America is not just a place: It is an idea.”
Asked whether he thinks President Obama believes in American exceptionalism the way he defines it, Feulner said “no.”
“President Obama has already said he does not believe in American exceptionalism the way we believe in it,” he said.
Feulner rejects the notion of an America in decline, saying that the nation’s challenges “aren’t greater than the country faced when we were in world wars, or when we were in the midst of the Great Depression.”
“What has to happen is we all have to rise above our individual concerns, work together to get out of it and get over this gloom-and-doom mentality,” he said.
Among the steps the think tank chief thinks America needs to take are “realiz[ing] the limits that should be placed on government,” “reaffirm[ing] the basic truth that government does not create jobs or grow an economy,” and “encourag[ing] and incentiviz[ing] individuals, through low taxes and less governmental regulations, individuals with their ability to be creative and be all that they can be.”
Read TheDC’s full interview with Feulner about his new book and much more:
Why did you and Brian Tracy decide to write the book?
We decided to write “The American Spirit” because there is too much gloom and doom around these days. The best days of America can still lie ahead of her if we get over the notion that somehow things are bad and getting worse. Instead, we should be optimistic and look forward to how to make things really better for everyone.
What defines the American character?
The American character is defined by a whole set of virtues that have been talked about by writers going back to Bill Bennett’s definitive work, “The Book of Virtues,” but they basically involve a commitment to freedom, a belief in a divine order of things, a sense of responsibility and optimism, and a belief in honesty and integrity toward the other person. Tolerance and open-mindedness are important, as is a pragmatic attitude combined with generosity of spirit.
We believe in the individual and the individual’s right to be free to choose. And that means that the individual will embrace the system that we call, in shorthand, “capitalism.” All of this comes together in terms of what we call “The American Spirit.”
What makes America so exceptional?
America is exceptional because as immigrants from 194 countries over the years, we have shown it is the only place where you can come and start off with a clean slate. In effect, you can define your own future. You can be whatever is possible as long as you are willing to work hard for it and make it happen on your own behalf. You are not automatically cast into a class system or a certain level of society which you can’t rise out of. You can really make a difference. In short, America is not just a place: It is an idea.
Is America really all that different from other Western-oriented nations?
Yes, America really is different from other Western-oriented nations. We believe in these basic principles and if we weren’t different, then people wouldn’t keep coming here because they view America as the “last best hope.”