American exceptionalism exists

A couple weeks ago, I could not help overhearing a conversation two girls were having about America and its place in the world while boarding the AU shuttle.

One of the girls said she did not think the concept of “American exceptionalism,” the idea that America is different and special from all other nations, is true and that the concept itself is dangerous. I was appalled at hearing this statement, and it took every bit of me to bite my tongue.

I declare that not only is America exceptional, but also the greatest nation on Earth. My belief in this country is not one rooted in a conviction of historical documents such as the Constitution or the Declaration of Independence, be those important. Rather, my faith and unyielding support for our nation comes from my own life, as I am a product of the economic opportunity this country offers.

I did not have an easy life growing up. My father left my mother and I in my early teenage years with nothing and no future to look forward to. I am one of 20 million kids who grew up in a single parent home and one of 15 million who grew up without a father; but while this was a great challenge, it provided me with great opportunity.

My mother had to work all hours of the day, and was hardly home enough for me to see her the way most kids get to see their mother. Luckily, my grandparents were gracious enough to take us in and give us a roof over our heads while we looked for a place to live.

During this time, I spent many countless hours with my grandfather. He loved to talk to me about America. He always told me how he wanted me to go to college, and how he did everything he could to establish a way to give me the chance to do something with my life. I was never one to consider going to college, but after many long talks with my grandpa, I decided to get good grades so I could attend a great college.

It was then that I discovered my passion for politics. I happen to be watching TV one day when then-Senator Obama was giving a campaign speech about his past. I learned he grew up no different than me: without a father and with all the odds against him, and yet he was running to become president of the United States.

With a newfound role-model and a determination to succeed, I started on my path. Not less than five days after I graduated high school, I was offered an internship on Obama’s campaign in Pennsylvania, and quickly packed up and moved. This move was rough for my mother, as I was leaving three months earlier than she expected. Even with her reservations, she supported me and gave me all the help she could in my pursuit of my dream.

After a successful summer working for the president and a successful freshman year at AU, a school where the annual tuition is higher than my mother’s yearly salary, I acquired an internship working for a consulting firm in downtown D.C.

I tell my story because I believe it is the essence of what this country stands for; even if everything seems to be against an individual, they still have the opportunity to become successful and live the American Dream in whatever capacity they define it.

For me, this is my American Dream: no father and a single mother, students loans and college and hope that one day my hard work will pay off and I can call myself successful. This is the only nation in the world in which a kid like me could make something of himself.

This is the American spirit, this is American exceptionalism, and this what defines us all as one people.

John Foti is a sophomore in the School of Public Affairs.

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