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Barack Obama is widely held to be the first sitting president to explicitly articulate the rhetoric of American exceptionalism. This paper uses the framing analysis methodology to explore his reconstruction of the exceptional American identity in a set of his public speeches and statements. It analyses the framing devices, such as lexical choices, metaphors and catchphrases, as well as the reasoning devices he used to reproduce new representations of American exceptionalism. Results point that Barack Obama’s ideational construct of American uniqueness resists the taken-for-granted narrative of America as a nation better than the rest of the world. His framing of the exceptional American identity is rather deeply rooted in John Winthrop’s image of the conditional shining of the city upon a hill. It conveys meanings of responsibility, hard work and commitment to common good as conditions for the fulfilment of an exceptionally “leading American self”. This paper contributes to both literatures on the discursive performance of the idea of American exceptionalism in the discourse of Barack Obama and the ongoing process of defining and redefining such a highly contested value in the American political discourse.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
Keywords: political communication ; puritanism ; Barack Obama ; American exceptionalism ; framing
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