USA250: Why? Who? What? How?

by Jon Grabelle Herrmann, USA250 Executive Director

We know when America will celebrate its 250th anniversary: July 4, 2026. But why should we care about an anniversary over ten years from now? Who is involved in planning the 250th? What is the big idea? And how can people get involved?

WHY:

American values are enshrined in our founding Declaration of Independence, “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Fulfilling the promise of the Declaration is the ongoing task for our society. The 250th anniversary presents us a unique opportunity to spark a national dialogue about America’s future, to celebrate our nation’s achievements, and to reflect upon our struggles in reaching this moment. It will take a concerted effort by a diverse group of Americans to engage the nation around big ideas and to organize around long-term goals over a decade away.

WHO:

Several years ago, a group of Philadelphians started a conversation about America’s future and the role that Philadelphia should once again play in bringing the country together. Led by USA250’s founder and current board chair Andrew Hohns, they raised startup funds to engage a broad group of Philadelphians around the ideas and opportunities presented by our nation’s 250th anniversary.

In 2012-2013, business and civic leader Sam Katz was hired as managing director to develop the initial plans. USA250 was incorporated as a 501(c)3 nonprofit and the group succeeded in bringing this opportunity to Philadelphia’s business, tourism, and civic communities. Hundreds of Philadelphians brainstormed “250 ideas for the 250th” through a series of parlor meetings, yielding a framework vision as we head into 2026. The idea was placed in the public spotlight in stories by Philadelphia Magazine, Metro, and Flying Kite Media. And Katz, who has been been producing an impressive series of documentaries about Philadelphia’s history, created this great teaser video to invite others to join USA250.

In November 2014, USA250 hired Jon Grabelle Herrmann as executive director and developed Philly-area tourism partnerships to embark on its next planning phase.

WHAT:

USA250’s vision is to convene citizens and leaders from all 50 states to renew the American project through a celebration and exploration of democracy, education, innovation, the arts, sports, and sustainable development in the modern era. Philadelphia will anchor the 250th by hosting a multi-year series of events, exhibitions and conventions as we build partnerships to extend the initiative nationwide.

The organization draws particular inspiration from the Centennial International Exposition of 1876, which brought together a fractured, post-Civil War nation and attracted 10 million visitors to the United States’ first official World’s Fair. The Centennial not only marked America’s 100th anniversary, but more broadly it engaged the world around the leading artistic, commercial, and agricultural advancements of the day. We are exploring models to apply these concepts in the modern era.

HOW:

In 2015, USA250 enters its next development phase to put our ideas into action for 2026. We’ll be posting “250 ideas for the 250th” over the course of a year and developing partnerships for the 250th. We are inviting participation by leaders and citizens across all sectors and communities. Sign up to keep in touch or get involved.

We’re just getting started. Watch this space.