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Is America really exceptional?

By the CNN staff
updated 2:24 PM EDT, Thu September 12, 2013
From Puritans in New England to presidiental candidates today, political leaders have given voice to the idea of American exceptionalism. Click through the gallery to see their words.<br/><br/><i>This 1872 painting by John Gast, "American Progress," depicts the concept of manifest destiny, with a goddess-like figure guiding and protecting settlers as they move westward.</i> From Puritans in New England to presidiental candidates today, political leaders have given voice to the idea of American exceptionalism. Click through the gallery to see their words.

This 1872 painting by John Gast, "American Progress," depicts the concept of manifest destiny, with a goddess-like figure guiding and protecting settlers as they move westward.
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Exceptionalism through time
Exceptionalism through time
Exceptionalism through time
Exceptionalism through time
Exceptionalism through time
Exceptionalism through time
Exceptionalism through time
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Putin opinion piece in New York Times takes issue with "American exceptionalism"
  • CNN series looks at origins of the term and whether America is truly No. 1

(CNN) -- Russian President Vladimir Putin has taken jabs at President Barack Obama and the concept of "American exceptionalism" in a New York Times opinion piece, leaving some people impressed and others outraged.

Putin was referring to Obama's speech Tuesday night on Syria, in which he said America had an obligation to act in certain situations.

"That's what makes us exceptional," Obama said.

Last year, as the idea of exceptionalism made headlines during the presidential election, CNN looked at the origins of the term and whether America truly was No. 1. Revisit our series to learn more about the words fueling today's debate:

W.H.: America is exceptional

The power of American Exceptionalism
Whether or not you think it's true, the idea that America was "chosen" by God to lead the world has shaped history in big ways, from the American Revolution to Election 2012.

Exceptional? Not by the numbers
Americans may call it "the greatest country in the world," but the United States isn't No. 1 in many areas. What can we learn from those who are ahead of us?

Photos: Faces of citizenship
Citizens of 54 countries became naturalized U.S. citizens in a recent ceremony. We asked them about their stories and what they think makes America exceptional.

Uniting America on ideals
David Gergen and Michael Zuckerman say candidates don't have to prove their view of American exceptionalism is better, they need to unite liberty and egalitarianism.

American by choice
The atmosphere is hushed and quiet as about 150 people take their seats. As big days go, this is one of the biggest. All these people are about to become citizens of the United States.

Nationality, identity and the pledge
CNN's Moni Basu describes how she became an American citizen, and the ways that moment has affected her life.

Where to find exceptional America
American historians share where they enjoy exploring the history of the United States. Here are some of their favorite spots.

America's not perfect, but we love it
Readers debate whether the U.S. is No. 1 and if it matters. Many said there are good and bad things about America, so perhaps we rank well in some areas, but not others.

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Part of complete coverage on
American Exceptionalism
Whether or not you think it's true, the idea that America was "chosen" by God to lead the world has shaped history in big ways, from the American Revolution to Election 2012.
updated 9:34 AM EDT, Mon July 2, 2012
Americans may call it "the greatest country in the world," but the United States isn't No. 1 in many areas. What can we learn from those who are ahead of us?
updated 3:18 PM EDT, Tue July 1, 2014
Citizens of 54 countries became naturalized U.S. citizens in recent ceremony We asked them about their stories and what they think makes America exceptional.
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David Gergen and Michael Zuckerman say candidates don't have to prove their view of American exceptionalism is better, they need to unite liberty and egalitarianism.
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The atmosphere is hushed and quiet as about 150 people take their seats. As big days go, this is one of the biggest. All these people are about to become citizens of the United States.
CNN's Moni Basu describes how she became an American citizen, and the ways that moment has affected her life.
updated 8:19 AM EDT, Wed July 4, 2012
It is nearly impossible to estimate how many U.S. citizens have dual -- or even triple -- citizenships. For those millions, the road to holding two passports is not always simple.
updated 8:21 AM EDT, Wed July 4, 2012
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American historians share where they enjoy exploring the history of the United States. Here are some of their favorite spots.
Readers debate if the U.S. is No. 1 and if it matters. Many said there are good and bad things about America, so perhaps we rank well in some areas, but not others.
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