The United States has a long arm of influence on the world and that makes it exceptional. Many other nations influenced world history -Russia, China, Great Britain – but those changes were largely external and involved government and trade. America has fostered internal changes, the way business and industry work, the way people live and interact. These are the changes we rarely see.
Americans are publically accused and blamed
Americans are blamed and hated because of their involvement with so many nations, accused of imperialism and narcissism and whatever ill is presently sticking in the craw of a foreigner. But what happened with America is that after World War II it found itself is the position of being a world leader. It was not so prior to that war. Yes, everyone wanted to visit here, but they had no day-to-day involvement with Americans.
Americans interacted internationally
England stopped slavery before the Americans did. But the Americans changed the whole world when it comes to slavery. Britain was able to end slavery because of the zealous voice of Wilberforce a wealthy man who sat in Parliament. But this did not change the rest of the world.
But because of a world war, and the ensuing war in Korea, people around the world came to know Americans, first as soldiers and then as just people. And they wanted to copy that kind of life and the American way of looking at the world. The word America comes from a Latin word meaning “friend” and most people found Americans to be friends, non-judgmental, resilient, happy and open to new ideas. And they wanted to be like that.
Americans act differently
Then they noticed that Americans did things differently. Women were educated; this was uncommon in many places across the world. Even today 23% of the world is illiterate. Women cut their hair, wore pants and short skirts, rode motorcycles, bought cars, and even single women bought houses. The changing status of women has had world wide influence.
Americans had a service for people who were sick, or in an emergency where you needed to go to a hospital or a victim in an auto accident. A big van filled with emergency equipment drove to where you were to help. When I lived in the Philippines during the 1990s Filipinos were astonished at the TV program Rescue 911. You could just call and people would help you. That was a time when 12 million Filipinos were living on the street with no help for anything. No wonder they all wanted to come to America!
American generosity extends even to animals
Americans for the most part treat their animals well, and those that abuse them are held in contempt. In much of the world an animal hospital is unheard of. They either eat animals, abuse them or ignore them.
The same with children. Americans have programs across the globe eliminating sex traffickers and sex slaves. Yes, some American entrepreneurs make big money off this but even more are fighting this kind of abuse of children, of both sexes.
Americans have music, and choices
There are hundreds of types of local music across the world but in America you find every single one and more. America is the birthplace of jazz, and every conceivable variety of music can be heard online, at concerts, in churches, in elevators! In foreign countries you find only a few choices. Foreigners have picked up on this with flash mobs, videos, and YouTube posts of every kind of music. Come one, come all.
Americans exported their values in law and order
In Hong Kong this month protesters are waving American flags. Some think we are behind the unrest there but we are not. That flag is just an indication that Hong Kong young people want an American type democracy. They recognize that Americans who study in Hong Kong are happy; they have personal goals, they speak about their government freely, and they worship freely. It is a disease they catch – this disease of personal liberty. And the Chinese kids are smart. Their parents insist upon it, so it is born of real thought and focus.
That is why we can say America is exceptional. Everybody across the globe may do it one way; we are the exception.