By NICOLE GAUDIANO
President Donald Trump decried the idea of “American exceptionalism” shortly before becoming a presidential candidate in 2015. Today, he wants all American students to learn about it.
“Teach American Exceptionalism” is one of two education items listed on Trump’s second-term “Fighting for You!” agenda that his campaign released ahead of his Republican National Convention speech. The campaign said he will further detail his plans during his Thursday acceptance speech. The other, not surprisingly, is providing school choice to every child in America.
Trump has promoted school choice throughout his presidency, but the full embrace of American exceptionalism marks a sharp turn from his statements five years ago, even if the doctrine was promoted in the 2016 GOP Platform.
“I don’t like the term,” Trump said in an April 2015 video posted a year later by Mother Jones. ”I’ll be honest with you. People say, ‘Oh he’s not patriotic.’ Look, if I’m a Russian, or I’m a German, or I’m a person we do business with, why, you know, I don’t think it’s a very nice term. ‘We’re exceptional; you’re not.’”
The GOP 2016 platform — which will remain in place for 2020 — describes American exceptionalism as “the notion that our ideas and principles as a nation give us a unique place of moral leadership in the world,” adding that it requires the U.S. to “retake its natural position as leader of the free world.”
Decisions about curriculum are made at the state and local level, so it’s unclear how Trump would promote the teaching of this doctrine. The campaign, in its news release, says Trump will “further illuminate” the plans during his convention acceptance speech and through “policy-focused speeches on the campaign trail.”
A campaign spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
In 2015, Trump — who has pushed an “America first” message — said he wanted to “take everything back from the world that we’ve given them,” and that he didn’t want to say, “we’re more exceptional.”
“Because essentially we’re saying ‘We’re more outstanding than you,’” he said during an April 2015 event hosted by the Texas Patriots PAC, according to Mother Jones.”’By the way, you’ve been eating our lunch for the last 20 years, but we’re more exceptional than you.’ I don’t like the term. I never liked it. When I see these politicians get up [and say], ‘the American exceptionalism’ — we’re dying. We owe $18 trillion in debt. I’d like to make us exceptional. And I’d like to talk later instead of now.”
Trump suggested then that there could be an opportunity to talk about American exceptionalism in “the not-too-distant future,” but even after the United States takes back money, jobs and “all our stuff, I’m not going to rub it in.”