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Caption: "The great Bartholdi statue, Liberty enlightening the world", Currier & Ives, 1885, Credit: Library of Congress
Image by: Library of Congress 
"The great Bartholdi statue, Liberty enlightening the world", Currier & Ives, 1885 

City Upon a Hill: American Exceptionalism

From: BackStory with the American History Guys
Series: BackStory with the American History Guys: Full Episodes
Length: 54:00

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This week on BackStory, the History Guys tackle the myth of the city upon a hill: American exceptionalism. They trace its origins in Alexis de Tocqueville and follow it through to the 2012 presidential election.

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Almost two centuries after Alexis de Tocqueville said that the U.S. was an exceptional case in the history of democratic societies, the idea of “American Exceptionalism” is alive and well. Almost every GOP candidate for president in 2012 has invoked the notion, each suggesting that President Obama doesn’t sufficiently embrace it. And so you might be surprised that, 90 years ago, American communists were Exceptionalism’s biggest fans.

From the Puritan vision of a "city upon a hill" to the 19th century concept of manifest destiny, from Woodrow Wilson’s vision of the U.S. as a worldwide model to Ronald Reagan’s invocation of the Puritans, this episode looks at the changing meanings of Exceptionalism, exploring what has influences Americans' perceptions of their difference - the sense that they have a special place in the world.

Piece Description

Almost two centuries after Alexis de Tocqueville said that the U.S. was an exceptional case in the history of democratic societies, the idea of “American Exceptionalism” is alive and well. Almost every GOP candidate for president in 2012 has invoked the notion, each suggesting that President Obama doesn’t sufficiently embrace it. And so you might be surprised that, 90 years ago, American communists were Exceptionalism’s biggest fans.

From the Puritan vision of a "city upon a hill" to the 19th century concept of manifest destiny, from Woodrow Wilson’s vision of the U.S. as a worldwide model to Ronald Reagan’s invocation of the Puritans, this episode looks at the changing meanings of Exceptionalism, exploring what has influences Americans' perceptions of their difference - the sense that they have a special place in the world.

Timing and Cues

SENDER: VFH RADIO – CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA
RE: "BACKSTORY" RUNDOWN –AMERICAN EXCEPTIONALISM”
SHOW: BACKSTORY WITH THE AMERICAN HISTORY GUYS
HOSTS: BRIAN BALOGH, PETER ONUF, ED AYERS
TIME: 59:00

PRSS SHOW TITLE: BACKSTORYAMERICANEXCEPTIONALISM
BROADCAST WINDOW: 7/12/12-9/27/12

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SHOW RUNDOWN

06:00 – 19:00 SEG A
IC: Major support for BackStory is provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities.
OC: You’re listening to BackStory. And we’ll be back in a minute.

6:00 - 8:53 Running Themes
The History Guys take a look at how the 2012 presidential candidates have claimed American Exceptionalism as a campaign mantra.

8:54 – 15:37 Tracing It Back
Peter, Ed, and Brian riff on what Exceptionalism has meant through the centuries.

15:38-19:00 Invisible Cities
Peter talks with historian Mark Peterson about John Winthrop’s oft-misunderstood sermon, “A Modell [sic] of Christian Charity,” in which the phrase “a city upon a hill” was first used to describe the New World.

19:00 – 20:00 STATION BREAK 1 (MUSIC BED)

20:00 – 39:00 SEG B
IC: We’re back with BackStory…
OC: We’ll be back in a minute.

20:00 – 26:53 Invisible Cities Continued
Peter continues his conversation with historian Mark Peterson about John Winthrop’s oft-misunderstood sermon, “A Modell [sic] of Christian Charity.”
26:54 – 31:51 Seeing Red
and share a little-known story about that time Stalin coined the term “American Exceptionalism.”

32:52 – 39:00 Who or Where?
Brian chats with Paul Kramer about a late nineteenth century debate: Was America exceptional, or were Americans exceptional because they descended from England?

39:00 – 40:00 STATION BREAK 2 (MUSIC BED)

40:00 – 59:00 SEG C
IC: Welcome back to BackStory with the American History Guys…
OC: …at the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities

40:00 – 51:28 Listener Questions
The History Guys answer questions from listeners.

51:29 – 57:35 For Purple Mountain Tragedy?
Brian talks with Katherine Meizel about the song “America the Beautiful” and its unsung verses.

57:42 – 59:00 PRODUCTION/FUNDING CREDITS

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Contact: Producer, Tony Field (434) 924-8922, tfield@virginia.edu

Additional Credits

Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, National Endowment for the Humanities, The History Channel

Related Website

www.backstoryradio.org