We live in an age with countless voices united against American exceptionalism. We are under an anti-American barrage every day from leftists politicians, actors, media personalities, college professors, and coffee shop baristas.

The only way for them to instill the tyranny that will empower leftists is to convince us to forget just how extraordinary it is to be an American.

It began by selling the lie that there is nothing special about being an American, that we are just like everyone else. But the fact is, America is anything but common.

British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher understood that. She once said, “Europe was created by history. America was created by philosophy.”

But it was not just any philosophy, but one grounded in the simple truth – even if imperfectly applied – that all men are created equal and have the right to govern themselves.

In the early 1840s a young historian named Mellen Chamberlain sought out one of the last surviving participants in the Battle of Concord to ask him about that experience. The minuteman’s name was Levi Preston, who was 91 at the time.

(Mr. Chamberlain later recorded the interview in his work John Adams, the Statesman of the American Revolution.)

Chamberlain asked Preston why he had fought the British. The answers weren’t what the historian expected, for Preston did not speak of the oppressive British rule, the stamp tax, the tea tax or the writings of philosopher John Locke.

“Well, then,” asked Chamberlain, “why did you fight?”

Preston’s answer takes my breath away: “Young man, what we meant in going for those redcoats was this: We always had governed ourselves, and we always meant to and they meant that we shouldn’t.”

It was this concept of self-government, so natural to Levi Preston and his contemporaries, that changed the world. It is at the practical root of American exceptionalism. It’s why our nation has thrived, even as other, older and more established nations withered and even died.

It is why tyrants abroad and would-be tyrants at home run down America, denigrate our nation, and seek to draw us away from our founding principles.

America is exceptional because we, the people, govern ourselves. Levi Preston and his generation had the moral courage to do what they knew to be right: reject an offer of tyranny so that self-government and liberty could thrive.

We do not elect almighty leaders, but public servants. We cannot tolerate unlimited government or make allowance for the divine right of politicians.

We must govern ourselves, thank you very much.

Yet recent events show that self-government is fragile; it only exists to the extent we continue to jealously guard it and actively participate in it. If self-government is to continue, if liberty is to flourish, if we are to remain independent, we must be informed, engaged and active citizens.

We must every day intentionally join Levi Preston in fighting for the right to govern ourselves.