"Freedom," Albert Camus pointed out, "is nothing else but a chance to be better." For 234 years, America has strived, fought, invented, pushed, pulled and dragged itself towards the better. Fortune was keen to enumerate our progress.
There's no claim to ranking or exclusivity here, so leave the nitpicking aside for another day, though feel free to add to our list in the comments section. Without further ado, and in almost no particular order, we present the Fortune 100 Great Things About America.
1. The Internet
Oh yes, invented in the USA -- maybe Al Gore helped.
2. The Constitution and the Bill of Rights
America's pastime…steroids or not
4. Mount Rushmore
Home of the original "your face here" gimmick
5. Food in New Orleans
If you can remember it the next morning
6. Rock and roll
Find a Beatles or Stones song uninfluenced by American music. Just try.
Mauna Kea, Kaua'i…you gotta see it to believe it.
8. iPod, iPad, and everything Apple
Carolina, Mississippi, K.C., Memphis…it's all good.
10. Ford Mustang
Who needs a German car? We'll take the classic.
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Because this is a real sentence: Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo. Don't believe us? Check on #11.
13. Slam dunks
Thanks to Doctor J
If the Lion King ever closes, Cats will come back.
Listen to mine sing
Because no one stands up to China better
17. Mark Twain
The original American bad-ass
18. The national anthem
19. Iced drinks
When will the rest of the world figure this out?
Cape Cod, Kiawah, Zuma -- ours are better.
21. Madison Square Garden
A little threadbare but still the biggest stage in America's biggest city
22. Delivery pizza
23. The Grateful Dead
Long may the followers of Uncle John's Band live on.
We keep clicking on home videos even after Charlie bit our finger -- again!
25. The Super Bowl
The parties, the ads -- oh and a sports game, too
China rules the commercial catch, but more people fish for fun here than anywhere else.
A game we sometimes play in real life, too.
28. The Big Apple Circus
Where joy and, occasionally, fear comes in clown twelve-packs by tiny car
Imitators don't stand a chance
Friend us? Just kidding… but seriously. Please friend us.
Loosen your belt and watch the parade
32. Pickup trucks
Our nation's first outlet for unfunny bumper stickers
33. The Simpsons
May Bart and Lisa never make it to high school.
34. Oprah Winfrey
But after 2011, no more free cars for the audience
Not just for dogs
36. Mad Men
Jon Hamm + Christina Hendricks = cooler than the actual '60s
37. New York/Boston sports rivalry
For our safety, we decline to comment.
38. MRI machine
Perfect for after that Yanks-Sox game
The first to make polyester clothes out of old plastic bottles
40. Archie Comics
Betty or Veronica: 68 years and the debate rages on
41. The Golden Gate Bridge
Dirty Harry meets Full House. Uh oh.
Even before Ken Burns discovered it
43. Fantasy football
45. Trader Joe's
If cheap wine were apples, we present the modern Johnny Appleseed. Amen.
46. The 4th of July
47. Harley Davidson
The motorcycle company that has survived both the Great Depression and the Hybrid Obsession
48. March Madness
So crazy it spills into April
As Facebook proved, it's Scrabulous
Even useful when empty, as moorings
51. Slip 'N Slide
52. Ice cream
Ben and Jerry's, Breyers, soft serve… ours freezes the competition
53. Yellowstone National Park
This choice bribed by the secret dairy farmers' cartel
55. Edward R. Murrow
A journalist who was cool? Sigh.
56. Restaurant week
The one week a year when snooty waiters have to play nice
57. Washington D.C. monuments at night
Lincoln looks good
58. Bugs Bunny
Every parent's dream: he's nice to doctors and he eats his veggies
59. Etch A Sketch
Don't shake away our faith in this one
Hmmm… what does the "coca" stand for again?
61. Flip flops
Not the John Kerry kind, though both can be found on Nantucket
62. Vegas weddings
63. Napa wine
If anyone orders Merlot, we're leaving
64. Willie Nelson
The only place where you can buy a single cornflake
Our favorite fruit that can't check email
67. The Rockettes
68. Charles Barkley
Hosting Saturday Night Live and pitching for T-Mobile, Sir Charles is now larger than life
69. Blue jeans
Levi Strauss invented the modern version only to see them become boringly ubiquitous
70. County fairs
We recommend you eat your corndog after swinging that sledgehammer at the High Striker game
71. The Oscars
A celebration of everything good and awful about Hollywood
Thankfully, not rare
74. The Tiffany box
The only package more powerful than its contents
75. Sports mascots
The San Diego Chicken vs. the Phillie Phanatic
76. The Great Lakes
77. Salt water taffy
Delicious even though they contain neither salt nor water
78. Roller coasters
Possibly the only 30-second activity worth a three-hour wait
Even if we're unsold on the vampire craze
80. The Everglades
Where else would you go to get drunk and wrestle an alligator?
81. Bonnie and Clyde
Do you and your honey bunny rob banks? No? Then sit down.
82. Chewing gum
But please, remember that it's a silent activity
83. The light bulb
And we just keep inventing better ones!
84. Religious freedom
From Pilgrims to scientologists
If you've never tried one, come to New York and make your first one an H&H
86. Judd Apatow films
87. The Billboard 100
Measuring our music since 1958
And the guacamole really is worth the extra $2.25
89. Dalmatians on fire trucks
Black and white and red all over
90. Disney movies
Not yours, Nicholas Cage. The old school, animated ones
91. New Year's Eve
Every country has one, but they all watch Times Square
92. Elvis Presley
A hound-dog and the King
A true American delicacy: a chicken in a duck in a turkey
The only movie rental survivor
96. Spring Break
We plead the Fifth
First used commercially in Yonkers, NY in 1899—who knew?
98. Stand-up comedy
Unless you are singled out
99. Redwood trees
The oldest is 2,200 years old
100. Bendy straws
Invented by a Cleveland entrepreneur—and perhaps Ohio's most significant contribution, though we tip our hats to the Wright Brothers and its 8 U.S. Presidents
101. Charlie Brown
Sorry, Charlie, maybe next time you'll crack the top 100