The Rhetoric of Exceptionalism: Enduring Cultural Frames of American Exceptionalism

March 2022

This literature review examines the cultural frames and perspectives of American exceptionalism used by American presidents, at home and abroad. First, it identifies key definitions and themes associated with historical and modern-day perspectives on American exceptionalism. Next, American presidential speeches and notable addresses are examined for their use of frames associated with this concept. This review then draws on framing theory and its application to the concept of American exceptionalism. Last, major domestic and foreign policy cultural frames are identified in relation to American exceptionalism. In sum, this literature review examines American exceptionalism, its accompanying cultural frames, why it continues to strategically influence foreign and domestic policy decisions by American leaders, and the challenges to its continued relevance in modern political rhetoric.