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Home» News» News» Global» [Beijing Forum 2013] Fredrick Logevall: America is no exceptional

[Beijing Forum 2013] Fredrick Logevall: America is no exceptional

Peking University, Nov. 1, 2013: “I wish I could follow Kevin Rudd’s (Australia’s former prime minister) example and offer a few words to my host in their language. But I can’t. So what I would do is to offer a few words in my native Swedish. Or maybe that’s not a very good idea.”  Professor Fredrick Logevall started his speech with a fun poking and then preceded his talk on American exceptionalism and US foreign policy.


Professor Fredrick Logevall, is a Swedish-American historian and educator at Cornell University, the John S. Knight Professor of International Studies. He is a specialist in U.S. foreign policy and the Vietnam Wars. He now serves as Vice Provost of Cornell University.


Logevall brought out and explained the idea “exceptionalism” at the very beginning–an important idea “since if not before founding of the republic.” This “powerful if arguably winning hold on Americans”believes that U.S. and its government, politics and missions are “unique” and “superior.”


This mentality of Americans does not come out of nowhere. It does have intellectual groundings. The political power in America is dispersed among popular support. Hence the politicians found that in order to win support, the best way is to “trumpet exceptionalism.”


But is America really exceptional? Is it just a myth?


Logevall sides with the latter and elaborated it into three myths. First, most world powers in the history have imposed their wills and preferences on others. America is just “singing a familiar old song.” Second, America has been no better than other nations, just look at its brutality during the Vietnam Wars. Third, America’s success is due to its genius, but for its “melting pot assimilation” phenomena.


“I submit to you that we should view exceptionalism with skepticism.” Logevall concluded his speech with skepticism about what he called “American Patriotism.”


Reported by: Chen Runxi

Edited by: Zhang Jiang