100 great things about AmericaJuly 3, 2013: 5:00 AM ET
For the fourth year in a row, Fortune highlights those wonderful, unique people, places, products, and ideas that give American life its undeniable moxie.
FORTUNE -- "I am an American ... and go at things as I have taught myself, free-style, and will make the record in my own way...." Saul Bellow's Augie March was speaking on behalf of the millions of Americans who have insisted on dictating the terms of engagement for their own lives. These hardy Americans -- both natives and newcomers -- have not relented to the powerful winds of history; they have fashioned their own destinies. These are the Americans that bounce back and bound forward. Indeed, they know the power of a comeback, which is the first item on Fortune's fourth annual list of 100 great things about America. (We, meanwhile, are still going full speed toward our goal of compiling 1,000 marvelous things about the U.S. of A.) As we prepare for our July 4 holiday, we highlight those wonderful, unique people, places, products, and ideas that give American life its special spirit, or its moxie (No. 3). Feel free to add your own in the comments section.
This year's rules were the same as the previous years': only the living can make the cut, and no repeats from past installments. Many thanks go to this year's crop of Fortune interns for their help: Lily Cohen, Preston Cooper, Craig Giammona, Varun Nayar, Sameepa Shetty, Brandon Southward, and Andres Vaamonde.
Without further ado, and in no particular order, we give you this year's 100 great things about America.
--Scott Olster, editor
Bill Clinton, Tiger Woods, Donald Trump, Kobe Bryant, Arrested Development... Ours is a nation of second chances.
2. Wayfarer sunglasses
Immortalized by none other than James Dean, one of America's coolest rebels.
Mae West, Marilyn Monroe, Andy Kaufman, Kanye West, Madonna, Lady Gaga, Don King, the list of American originals -- mavericks who have refused to entertain anything remotely close to the status quo -- goes on and on.
4. Reality TV
From "This is Your Life" to "The Real World," "The Jersey Shore," and "Duck Dynasty," the genre displays Americans at their most heroic, narcisisstic, and human.
5. Annual presidential turkey pardon
Though many more end up on the end of a fork, at least one bird goes free every year.
6 Cracker Jack
With just one box, you won't care if you ever go back.
Home to the world's most famous desk lamp.
8. The rule of law
Keeping us a nation of laws, not men.
Path to economic opportunity for 1950s housewives. Path to longevity for millions of holiday leftovers.
10. Open source/free software movement
The dweebs were right: 90% of the Fortune 500 use Linux these days.
11. Las Vegas strip
Because you are never too old to make bad choices.
12. North Face fleece
Makes camping -- and life in the Northwest -- that much more enjoyable.
The better half of America's favorite couple.
14. The Liberty Bell
"Philadelphia freedom, shine on me."
15. Wisconsin Cheeseheads
They love their team. And they love their state. And we all love their cheese.
16. Maryland crab cakes
Sure, you can eat crab in other coastal states -- but would you want to?
17. Rap crews
The posse is an American tradition, from the Jesse James gang to Wu-Tang Clan.
Sloth and gluttony in one cute calico package.
19. Niagara Falls
Self-proclaimed honeymoon capital of the world. Also, an astounding natural wonder.
Drive. Speak. Pay. Receive food. Laziness perfected.
21. Betty White
Blondes do have more fun.
22. Steve Carell as Michael Scott
He was so good, it hurt. That's what she said.
23. Air conditioning
Willis Carrier invented this magnificent foil to overheating. Yeah, we'd say he was a pretty cool guy.
24. Fast and Furious franchise
Two-hour doses of half-sentences, ridiculous catchphrases, and explosions. Who could ask for anything more?
25. Mel Brooks
He gave us "The Producers," "Blazing Saddles," and "Young Frankenstein." Need we say more?
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