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First major, patriotic gift: DAR donates 76 trees to Independence Mall

USA250 is proud to announce the first major, patriotic gift to the nation announced for the United States Semiquincentennial:

At their 126th annual Continental Congress, the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) announced a $380,000 donation to the National Park Service (NPS), to underwrite the planting of 76 trees at Independence National Historical Park (INHP), a gift made in the spirit of 1776.

The trees will be planted over the next three years and mature as the nation approaches our 250th anniversary, the United States Semiquincentennial. Cynthia MacLeod, NPS’ Acting Northeast Regional Director thanked the DAR, noting that, “The park is a sort of arboretum, comprised of several landscapes. The new trees will significantly enhance the overall character that has defined the park for decades.”

The DAR’s donation is the first component of its new America 250 initiative, to engage the organization’s 185,000 members with the commemoration and celebration of the nation’s Semiquincentennial anniversary. It follows a long list of major DAR contributions over generations to strengthen Independence Hall and its surrounding environs. The group planted 13 trees at Independence Square during the 1926 Sesquicentennial, and it also funded the restoration of Independence Hall’s second floor for the 1976 Bicentennial.

For this donation, MacLeod explained that “some trees will be replacement street trees, others will be individual specimen from smaller flowering trees to larger evergreen and deciduous trees that fit in Washington Square, Independence Square, Independence Mall, and the Second Bank and First Bank blocks, among other locations in the park. Eventually we will have a map that locates each of the 76 trees.”

DAR also announced the appointment of Lynn Forney Young by Speaker Paul Ryan to the United States Semiquincentennial Commission. Mrs. Young serves as DAR Honorary President General and chair of DAR’s America 250 committee. The full list of Commission appointees is available online at

USA250 expresses our deepest appreciation to Daughters of the American Revolution for preserving the national values and historic sites of the American Revolution and honoring the memory of those who served the patriotic cause. The DAR is part of an impressive range of individuals, organizations and foreign nations who, during past national anniversary celebrations, have donated works of public art and other civic contributions that have left a legacy both in Philadelphia and across the United States, ranging from the Statue of Liberty to the restoration of Independence Mall, from the LOVE Statue to the Japanese cherry blossom trees that beautify our public space.

Photos for Public Use

Photos courtesy of Daughters of the American Revolution:

DAR President General Ann T. Dillon, NPS Acting Northeast Regional Director Cynthia MacLeod, and DAR Honorary President General Lynn F. Young
DAR President General Ann T. Dillon and DAR Honorary President General and US Semiquincentennial Commissioner Lynn F. Young present donation to NPS Acting Northeast Regional Director Cynthia MacLeod


Dr. Andrew Hohns, Member of the US Semiquincentennial Commission, Board Chair of USA250
US Semiquincentennial Commissioner and USA250 Board Chair Dr. Andrew Hohns address the DAR Continental Congress to thank the Daughters for their patriotic contribution for 2026.


Dr. Andrew Hohns (USA250, US Semiquincentennial Commission) and Leah Popowich, Cynthia MacLeod (NPS), President General Ann T. Dillon (DAR), Honorary President General Lynn F. Young (DAR, also US Semiquincentennial Commission), Jon Grabelle Herrmann (USA250)
Dr. Andrew Hohns (USA250, US Semiquincentennial Commission) and Leah Popowich, Cynthia MacLeod (NPS), President General Ann T. Dillon (DAR), Honorary President General Lynn F. Young (DAR, also US Semiquincentennial Commission), Jon Grabelle Herrmann (USA250)

Food250 Report from New England: A Communal Understanding

Hi all:

Travis Rosenbluth here.

We find ourselves in a time of food contradiction. One turns on the tv to entire networks dedicated to food: talk shows, competitions, cooking shows, etc. In addition to what we see on tv, it is seldom that you will scroll down your social media feeds without seeing a post about food. When sitting down to eat, it’s common that a diner will reach for his or her phone before grabbing the fork and knife.

But does that interest in food translate to a deeper level of understanding, or does it only go as far as our Instagrams and tastebuds?

I have been on the road for about two weeks now, driving through the Northeast region of our country as I make my way out to Fargo, North Dakota. I’ve traveled to Maine, where I visited Portland and Brunswick. I then continued to Montpelier and Burlington, Vermont, as part of ongoing research for Food250. Driving out of Vermont, I pondered what I had learned from my time in the region. I met with some fantastic people, chefs and farmers alike.

It was my conversation with a local in Montpelier that really struck a chord with me.

The man went by the name of Gampo Wickenheiser and the conversation began very organically. I was sitting at the counter of Down Home Kitchen for breakfast and struck up some small talk with the waitress behind it. Gampo sat at the other end eating his buttermilk french toast, seemingly minding his business before his day was set to begin.

It wasn’t too long before the owner of the restaurant, Mary Alice, sat next to me and involved herself in the conversation. I told them what I was in town for and Mary called over to Gampo to join. Gampo was a big man, his hands were worn like tough leather, a mark of a craftsman which he was. His hair was long, black, flowing. He introduced himself, telling me that he was a stone artist who had moved from Philadelphia years ago, and he has since been living outside of Montpelier.

He and I sat there talking, cup after cup of coffee being refilled as we spoke about food, community, and life. When it came to our food systems/culture discussion, what I found so compelling about Gampo’s point of view was that it echoed the views shared amongst many chefs and farmers.

What is that view? It is a holistic view of the process by which our food reaches the plate.

We have made great strides as a food community to get people to acknowledge the proper way to eat is by the way of “farm to table”. Nevertheless, I have witnessed that many of us are complacent in seeing a vegetable served on our dinner plates. We often assume that every step to get it there was, as advertised, arranged by the ‘farm to table’ restaurant itself.

That is simply not true. I have worked in kitchens that take advantage of the benefits of advertising one way, but not following in it in practice. Their customers are none the wiser. Still I can’t blame them. I’ve come to understand that this way of thinking is unique to the communities you live in; and that is why I found Gampo’s insight so provocative.

American cities, around which our pop culture is based, promote life through the gloss of a screen. Those who live in urban communities will see a polished, finished product of food and not the making of it. This relates to his point, in which Gampo speaks about interconnection,

“We’re all interconnected to everything. You take a piece of bread and, if you really thought about it, you’re connected [from] the person who grew that wheat to the baker [who] baked that bread. The sun it took to grow that wheat, to the rain, [it’s] all right there in that one piece of bread.


All these things took place in a sequence of events before that showed up in front of you. [Understanding that] changes your whole perspective of what you’re eating, why you’re eating, who you’re getting it from, who you support, who you don’t… It does dictate the direction of most things around here”.

Perspective, that is what I took away from my time in New England. I learned that it is the mindset of the community in which we live that will determine how we think about food.

The New England community is very tapped into their food systems. They bear the burden of our current systems but are willing to face those burdens as a community. They understand what it means to eat local, buy local, and grow local. Where many see an advertisement opportunity, they see growth in community.

My generation often seems more engaged with food through our phones than in real life. We must re-establish that natural connection with food, that we once had not so long ago. I believe that Americans will turn to communities, like that in Vermont, to lead us.

I am excited to continue my journey toward the Northwest and continue to understand the food culture in communities across the country. It’s my personal belief that until we embrace our communities’ understandings around food, then we will fail in trying to change our ways.

I write this post, sitting in Pittsburgh and getting ready to head out to Detroit. I can already tell that the community mindset around food in the Midwest is very different than New England, but that is for the next post.

Please follow my journey on Instagram @Food250


Travis H. Rosenbluth

Food250 Raffle: Send Travis across the USA!

Travis Rosenbluth wants to hear your story!

Enter the Food250 raffle:
One winner. 5 restaurants!

Enter Now

What is American food?

Do you want to hear where America’s top chefs and food stakeholders believe the future of American Food is heading? Help us find out! This is the start of a ten year plan to improve the quality of our food system from Americans who are passionate about sustainability, accessibility, education and viability.

To do that, we are sending Travis Rosenbluth, a young 25 year old chef, to document what is happening throughout the United States in order to learn what issues matter.

Support Travis’ trip.
Enter to win the Big Philly Dining Package!

For each $25 entry, you get a chance to win a bundle of gift certificates to Philly’s top restaurants, donated to help launch USA250’s new initiative, Food250, including ALL of these great prizes:

  • Fork: $150 dinner for 2
  • Garces Group: $150
  • High Street on  Market: $150 dinner for 2
  • Serpico: $150 dinner for 2 ($150)
  • Zahav: $100
  • plus the V Street Cookbook by Chefs Rich Landau and Kate Jacoby
Enter Now


Proceeds from the raffle will support Travis’ trip as well as our ongoing efforts to plan for Food250. The winning entry will be selected at random. The contest ends April 30, 2017.

Thank you in advance for your support.

What kind of country will we leave for our children in 2026?

What kind of country will we leave for our children when the United States reaches its 250th anniversary in 2026?

Last night, President Trump posed this question during his address to a joint session of Congress:

“In 9 years, the United States will celebrate the 250th anniversary of our founding — 250 years since the day we declared our Independence.


“It will be one of the great milestones in the history of the world.


“But what will America look like as we reach our 250th year? What kind of country will we leave for our children?

To properly answer that question, we can start by looking at the Declaration of Independence itself, recognizing that we are all created equal, that we enjoy certain inalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.

In 1776, the United States of America was organized around these enduring principles. And as our 250th anniversary in 2026 approaches, it is the obligation of all Americans to make sure that our children inherit a nation guided by those same words and values.

The President also remarked on the history made in Philadelphia during the nation’s centennial celebration in 1876:

“Hopefully, the 250th year for America will see a world that is more peaceful, more just and more free.


“On our 100th anniversary, in 1876, citizens from across our Nation came to Philadelphia to celebrate America’s centennial. At that celebration, the country’s builders and artists and inventors showed off their creations.


“Alexander Graham Bell displayed his telephone for the first time.


“Remington unveiled the first typewriter. An early attempt was made at electric light.


“Thomas Edison showed an automatic telegraph and an electric pen.


“Imagine the wonders our country could know in America’s 250th year.


“Think of the marvels we can achieve if we simply set free the dreams of our people.”

Each American has an equal and undivided interest in the success of our Great Experiment in republican democracy on the occasion of our 250th anniversary. We’re glad to have your support in making that possible.

Contribute your ideas for 2026 at

On behalf of USA250,

Andrew Hohns, Board Chair
Jon Grabelle Herrmann, Executive Director

First U.S. Semiquincentennial Commissioners Celebrated

Toast250 Reception Celebrated U.S. Semiquincentennial Commission, First-announced Commissioners, and new USA250 Partners

11/21 Event featured Members of Congress, Philly’s top chefs, and special guests

Philadelphia, PA – More than 250 civic and community leaders gathered Monday night, November 21st at 5:30pm at the African American Museum in Philadelphia for the Toast250 reception. The fundraiser event was organized by USA250, the Philly-based nonprofit making plans for America’s 250th anniversary in 2026. The group announced passage of the United States Semiquincentennial Commission Act and the appointment of new Commissioners, honor bipartisan Members of Congress who championed the legislation, as well as highlight new USA250 partners spanning historical, culinary, and civic engagement focus areas.

Did you miss Toast250? Make a donation to USA250 today!

Appointed by Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, newly announced members of the federal commission were in attendance, including: David L. Cohen (Senior Executive Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer, Comcast Corporation), Andrew Hohns (Founding Board Chair, USA250; and Managing Director, Mariner Investments), and on behalf of Semiquincentennial Commissioner and U.S. Senator Bob Casey, his state director Gwen Camp. Additional appointees include U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen, Washington DC historian James Swanson, and Nevada private investor Heather Murren.

Philadelphia’s top chefs and restaurants were joined by James Beard Foundation’s Mitchell Davis to launch Food250, highlighting the Foundation’s commitment to develop culinary and civic programming that advances American food leadership for the Semiquincentennial. The African American Museum in Philadelphia and Daughters of the American Revolution joined USA250 to involve communities, locally and across the country, to plan for a national celebration that explores our diverse heritages and shared future.


Philadelphia Magazine: “Here’s the latest…” by Sandy Smith

The Philadelphia Citizen: “Party Prep” by Quinn O’Callaghan

WPVI-TV: “Toasting the… Commission” by 6abc Action News

Toast250 photo book on Facebook


United States Semiquincentennial Commission: Established by Public Law 114-196, the new commission will facilitate national plans to observe and commemorate the United States Semiquincentennial. With its meetings to be convened at Independence Hall in Philadelphia, the 33-member body of public and private citizens will solicit ideas for the 250th anniversary in 2026 and develop a report with recommendations to the President and to Congress within two years of its formation. Bipartisan Members of Congress championed the legislation, with co-sponsorship at passage by: U.S. Senators Bob Casey, Pat Toomey, Sheldon Whitehouse, and Ron Wyden, and by U.S. Representatives Patrick Meehan, Robert Brady, Brendan Boyle, and Ryan Costello. More info:

Food250: Food250 is a new USA250 initiative co-chaired by Mitchell Davis (James Beard Foundation); and Ellen Yin and Chef Eli Kulp (High Street Hospitality Group). Like American society, American food culture is open, dynamic and constantly evolving. In just 250 years we have transformed ourselves from a pantry for the Old World into tastemakers for global gastronomy and a leading voice in the conversation about how we will feed and nurture ourselves and our planet in the future. Along this journey we have developed values and traditions that we express as cooks and eaters, farmers and chefs, artisan producers and large food companies go about the daunting daily business of feeding 320 million people. Not everyone has equal access to sufficient food of the best quality. But here, too, America leads, finding innovative ways to support sustainability, increase production, improve health, and eliminate hunger. There is much work to do, but American ingenuity, entrepreneurship, and optimism, in food as in other fields, is unparalleled. As James Beard, largely considered the dean of American cookery, famously said, “Food is our common ground.” It is our intent to use food and all of its many facets to add a delicious and impactful component to the celebration of America’s 250th anniversary. More info about James Beard Foundation:

Participating Chefs and Restaurants: CookNSolo [Rooster Soup Co., Federal Donuts], Drexel University Center for Hospitality and Sport Management, Éclat Chocolate, Garces Group [Volvér Restaurant], High Street Hospitality Group [Fork, High Street on Market,], Laurel, The Keven Parker Company [Ms. Tootsie’s], Skurnik Wines, Starr Restaurant Group [Serpico], Urban Nutrition Initiative [Rebel Ventures], Vedge, Vernick, Vetri Community Partnership, Yards Brewing Company

African American Museum in Philadelphia (AAMP): Founded in 1976 in celebration of the nation’s Bicentennial,AAMP is the first institution funded and built by a major municipality to preserve, interpret and exhibit the heritage of African Americans.

Click here to see the Toast250 sponsors and participant list.

Congress Passes U.S.A. 250th Anniversary Commission Bill


Washington, DC – Ten years before the nation’s 250th anniversary in July 2026, a bipartisan team in both chambers of Congress passed HR4875, the United States Semiquincentennial Commission Act of 2016, led by U.S. Senators Bob Casey, Pat Toomey, Sheldon Whitehouse, and Ron Wyden, and by U.S. Representatives Patrick Meehan, Robert Brady, Brendan Boyle, and Ryan Costello.

The newly established commission will facilitate national plans leading into the Semiquincentennial. The 32-member body of public and private citizens will solicit ideas for the 250th anniversary and develop a report with recommendations to the President and to Congress within two years of its formation.

“The nation’s Semiquincentennial is an opportunity for all Americans to engage in a shared project of national unity, celebrating what brings us together while striving toward the best version of ourselves that we can be, as individual citizens, families, and communities,” says USA250 Board Chair and civic leader Andrew Hohns. “We thank the legislators from both parties who championed this legislation to enable the national planning to begin.”

U.S. Sen. Casey reflects, “The United States’ 250th anniversary is a momentous mark in our nation’s history and future. The commission’s purpose is to dedicate time to mapping out the look and feel of this celebration. I am excited to see what they come up with.”

Inspired by his favorite Founding Father, U.S. Rep. Meehan adds, “We are following Benjamin Franklin’s legendary advice that ‘by failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.’ This new commission is the same process that was used in planning for the Bicentennial celebrations across all 50 states in 1976. There is much to do and we’re glad to get started.”

By law, the commission will convene its meetings at Independence Hall in Philadelphia. Its recommendations will give special emphasis to locations of historical significance to the United States, individuals who have made a significant impact on the nation’s development, and the ideas that have advanced the “quest for freedom of all mankind.”

“Americans today owe a debt to our founders who imagined a nation conceived in liberty and who risked everything, including their lives, to make it so,” remarks U.S. Sen. Toomey. “Pennsylvania played a pivotal role in the birth of our country and in the composition of the documents that outline our values and the role of our government.  I am proud to join Senator Casey, and my colleagues in the Senate and House, to begin to plan for our country’s 250th birthday.”

“This legislation completes the process we began in 2009, when I introduced the original measure, HR986, to establish this important commission,” says U.S. Rep. Brady. “I am in awe of the work that USA250 has done to reach this point and greatly appreciate the bipartisan support my colleagues have given them.”

In addition to coordinating with state and local planners, the commission may encourage federal agencies to integrate the Semiquincentennial into their everyday activities. Five members of the President’s cabinet will serve on the commission, as well as the heads of the Smithsonian Institution, the National Archives, and the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities.

U.S. Sen. Whitehouse shares, “Congratulations to USA250 and all those working to commemorate our nation’s 250th anniversary. I encourage the new Semiquincentennial Commission to work with leaders throughout the country on events that celebrate our shared values and the influence our great nation has had throughout the world.”

“This is our chance as a nation to inspire a new generation of citizens leading into the nation’s next 250 years,” U.S. Rep. Boyle notes. “The ‘Semiquin’ will be much more than a birthday party; it will be a moment to take pause and focus on the history of the democracy in which we live, and take those lessons into the future we will shape together.”

For more information and to access the full legislation text, visit

USA250 is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization making big plans for America’s 250th anniversary in 2026. The Pennsylvania-based group was founded by private citizens to promote a celebration of the Semiquincentennial and to facilitate a conversation on the nation’s future, driven by the values and philosophy articulated in the Declaration of Independence. 



Jon Grabelle Herrmann, USA250, 267-307-2446,


Denbo: “We hold these truths to be self-evident”

Guest post by Seth Denbo, Washington DC.

I still remember my line from the school play in second grade. Costumed like a minuteman, I proclaimed “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.” It was 1976, and elementary school teachers across the country breathed a collective sigh of relief about not having to think up a theme for the play that year.

At the time I felt, as much as an eight year old can, a sense of national pride. And for me that pride was not misplaced. My family’s story is as iconic as it is clichéd. I’m one of the 40% of Americans who has a relative that passed through Ellis Island. My great-grandparents all left Eastern Europe to escape anti-semitism and make a better life for themselves and their families. And they did. They settled in South Jersey and central Pennsylvania, became grocers and tailors, and loved the country that had taken them in. There is little doubt that the generations they begat in the US would have faired far worse as Europeans than they did as Americans.

The stories we tell about throwing off the shackles of old world tyranny, of the mass immigrations of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, of the emancipation of the slaves, of universal suffrage, are all told through the lens of increasing liberty. Freedom and liberty are central ideas that shape how we understand the society in which we live. But these concepts only have meaning in opposition to slavery and tyranny, both specters that continue to haunt American society.

Celebrations of our nation’s founding have been influenced by the situation and the divisions of the time. They tell us more about the mood in 1876, 1926, and 1976 than about the period being commemorated. The 1876 Centennial exhibition in Philadelphia was a huge success, which has a lasting legacy in the buildings and collections of the Smithsonian Institution. But even while millions visited “the Centennial,” among the southern states that had suffered defeat in the Civil War just a decade before, only Mississippi participated. Fifty years later proposals for another a similar exhibition led to years of dispute among Philadelphians. Residents actively resisted the plans, concerned that they would end up footing the bill for a celebration that would only benefit business interests in the city. A much smaller fair in South Philadelphia was ultimately poorly attended and a financial disaster for its backers.

50 years ago, on July 4th 1966, President Johnson signed into law the bill that created the American Revolution Bicentennial Commission, beginning a decade long process of preparing to celebrate the 200th anniversary of July 4, 1776. The preparations for the year of celebrations brought urban renewal to Center City and improvements in historic preservation on Independence Mall and Valley Forge. But this was also a challenging time in our history for patriotic celebration. Early plans for a much larger scale event divided people along racial lines. Radical groupsmarched to call attention to class divisions. The memories of Vietnam and Watergate were fresh in everyone’s mind.

The US Senate has already passed a bill creating the United States Semiquincentennial Commission, and the House is now considering it. National commemorative celebrations are moments of reflection on the meaning of collective ideals. Liberty means very different things to different people, just as it did to the founders of our democracy. As we begin preparing for the celebration of yet another national anniversary we must remember that most of our immigrant ancestors arrived on these shores after independence and came from other parts of the world (PDF) than those who were here in the 1770s. They brought with them different conceptions of the meaning of liberty.

Any celebration of American independence must acknowledge both the good and the bad, the freedom and the slavery, those for whom European immigration meant the end of their civilization, those for whom the American dream comes true, and those who never realize it. Immigrants today want what my great-grandparents wanted, a better life for themselves and future generations. To deny that and pretend that those who came before have a greater claim to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is to lie to ourselves about who we are and what our democracy means. Let’s plan a celebration that helps our nation to become that ideal.


Seth Denbo is director of scholarly communication and digital initiatives at the American Historical Association. You can follow him on Twitter at @seth_denbo.

Hohns on NBC: How can we be a better version of America?

This July 4, 2016, is exactly ten years away from America’s 250th anniversary in 2026.

USA250’s board chair, Andrew Hohns, sat down with NBC10’s Keith Jones to discuss past national anniversary celebrations and what’s to come:

“It’s our responsibility to convene the nation every so often to reflect on how can we be a better version of America, and what can we do to form a more perfect union….

This is not just a party in Philadelphia. This is an opportunity for our entire nation to celebrate our success, and also to come together for a project of national unity.”



Click here to watch the full interview on Facebook.

As America hits the 10-year mark to the big anniversary, we are proud to have the support of bipartisan Members of Congress working to establish the United States Semiquincentennial Commission. For more information, visit


Introducing the U.S. Semiquincentennial Commission

U.S. 250th Anniversary Commission Act Introduced in Congress with Bipartisan Support


Noting today’s 241st anniversary of the Battles of Lexington and Concord, a bipartisan team of legislators introduced the United States Semiquincentennial Commission Act in Congress, led by Senators Robert Casey, Patrick Toomey, Sheldon Whitehouse, and Ron Wyden; and by Representatives Patrick Meehan, Robert Brady, Brendan Boyle, and Ryan Costello. (Bill #: HR. 4875 and S. 2815).

The proposed commission will facilitate national plans leading into America’s 250th anniversary on July 4, 2026. The 32-member body of public officials and private citizens will solicit ideas for the United States Semiquincentennial and develop a report with recommendations to the President and to Congress within two years of its formation.

Senator Casey:

“The United States’ 250th anniversary is a momentous mark in our nation’s history and future. The commission’s purpose is to dedicate time to mapping out the look and feel of this celebration. I am excited to see what they come up with.”

Senator Toomey:

“Americans today owe a debt to our founders who imagined a nation conceived in liberty and who risked everything, including their lives, to make it so. Pennsylvania played a pivotal role in the birth of our country and in the composition of the documents that outline our values and the role of our government.  I am proud to join USA250, Senator Casey, and my Pennsylvania colleagues to begin to plan for our country’s 250th birthday.”

Congressman Meehan:

“Pennsylvania has a rich history in the story of America’s founding as the home of the Continental Congresses and Constitutional Convention. Now, we invite our colleagues from all fifty states to build an anniversary initiative that carries the spirit of our founding era to future generations.”

Congressman Brady:

“Every American has a role to play in this celebration. Our nation’s commitment to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness remains as relevant today as it has been over 250 years.”

Additional Resources: