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It is often observed that American national identity is less a condition than an idea. No one is better positioned to express that idea than the president. What we have come to refer to as "the vision thing" is an expectation that our presidents will bring to office a particularly strong sense of national mission. The four chronicled here may have understood the special character of America in different ways, but in each case a belief that there was a distinctly American way of doing things guided their decisions.
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