Most people tend to base their argument on how this outcome was reached on American exceptionalism.
It is the compilation of factors varying from the strict Puritan roots of the first settlers with their Herculean work ethic, Constitutional Republicanism and the idea held by the vast majority of the population after the revolution, that American people are special people with a special destiny to lead the world towards liberty and democracy (according to Historian Gordon Wood).
American Defiance – the spark of the fire
That’s definitely true, but a plain belief that you’re special and destined for great things or that you represent everything that is good and moral simply won’t work.
Now don’t get confused, I’m not saying that all the mentioned above aren’t important, but there is one thing missing.
Imagine that you’re stranded outdoors and you wish to build a nice campfire to stay warm and keep predators away. Think of a Herculean work ethic and high moral values as fire wood, a great vision as tinder and you have everything set to start a nice big fire.
The only thing missing is the spark that will set the tinder ablaze and make sure the fire wood you’ve so carefully placed will be utilized to its fullest.
That spark, in the case of the United States, has and always will be defiance.
In the case of Cpt. of the Militia John Parker it was defiance of the might of an empire. He willingly decided that in order to achieve liberty, he would engage an enemy far more powerful with zero to none chances of success. Yet today we still remember the shots heard round the world.
A 13 year old Andrew Jackson refused to obey the humiliating order of a British Officer to clean his boots and was almost killed, yet that 13 year old boy grew up to be a Major General that once again stood defiant (I’m pretty sure that the British considered him to be a royal pain you know where) and challenged the might of both British and Spanish empires during the first Seminole War.
Teddy Roosevelt pretty much always actively sought the worst possible scenario for involvement, therefore having the opportunity to constantly remain defiant in the face of adversity. I could go on and on about great Americans who showed similar attitude.
In conclusion, what made America Great was (and of course still is) the persistence American People exhibit while pursuing happiness. Defiance and persistence are part of their vision as they face the very real possibility of total, devastating failure.