© 2023 Cincinnati Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Cincinnatian named to Ohio Commission for the U.S. Semiquincentennial

USA flag  in a field of grass as the sun rises/sets behind it.
Aaron Burden

The USA turns 250 years old in 2026. Preparations are already underway to commemorate the semiquincentennial.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine named seven people to the Ohio Commission for the U.S. Semiquincentennial. The group's directive is "to plan, encourage, develop, and coordinate the commemoration of the two hundred-fiftieth anniversary of the founding of the United States and the impact of Ohioans on the nation's past, present and future."

Cincinnati Museum Center President and CEO Elizabeth Pierce is among those appointed to the commission. She says history organizations began planning in earnest last year.

"How can we commemorate and celebrate that anniversary in particular, but (also) all of the history that preceded that, like before, during and after the American Revolution? How has America lived up to its promise? What does America need to do to continue to live up to its promise?" she queries.

Events and activities could include lectures, exhibits, activities, parades, celebrations and "deep dive discussions that might illuminate all these different aspects of state history and how it plays a role in the national history," she says.

Representatives to Ohio's commission were selected from across the state. Pierce is eager to include parts of the state's and nation's history that have been overlooked, such as native and Indigenous history and contributions. She specifically points to the Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks currently being considered for UNESCO World Heritage Site status.

This commemoration could look much different than 50 years ago, when the USA celebrated its bicentennial in 1976. Since then, the country has begun to reckon with its past in different ways. It's something the commission — and the America250 organization — will have to address and consider.

"That is the perfect question," says Pierce. "I think it's a recognition that America, as an idea, was an experiment and continues to be an experiment. There are numerous ways that people have fought for liberty and continue to fight for liberty and freedom. And so recognizing that if we're going to celebrate the founding of the United States, the signing of those documents in 1776, that there are a whole lot of stories that go into creating an understanding of what America's promise is, and how can we continue to pursue the highest ideals that were laid out in those documents.

"I think part of it is recognizing that the people who founded the country didn't have it all figured out. There was a pre-history to the United States before it got established in 1776. Putting all of that into the awareness and the understanding of 'What is America and what do we want to be?' "

She adds, perhaps, this celebration is less about — or as much about — the last 250 years as what's going to happen in the next 250 years.

Some of these ideas can already be seen on the America250 website. In January there was a "Community Conversation" with members of the Latino, Hispanic, and Chicano communities. November's "Community Conversation" centered on the LGBTQ+ community.

"One of the things that I'm really excited about this period of time and this attention around this anniversary and the stories that go along with it, is an opportunity to get people excited about history and utilizing the humanities and the arts as really essential skills and tools that help people put life in context; help also create understanding and drive toward that innovation that we'll need to be successful going forward."

The other appointees are:

  • Doug Preisse, who will serve as the chair of the Commission, serves as principal at VanMeter, Ashbrook & Associates.
  • Mike Coleman, who will serve as co-chair of the Commission, served previously as mayor of Columbus and currently is a partner at Ice Miller CCP.
  • Kelly Falcone Hall serves as the president and CEO of Western Reserve Historical Society in Cleveland.
  • John Fleming currently serves as the immediate past national chair of the Council for The American Association for State and Local History.
  • Ted Strickland served previously as governor of Ohio and as a U.S. Congressman.
  • Mackensie Wittmer serves as the executive director of the National Aviation Heritage Alliance.

The commission will have 29 members including community members. Therules for the members are laid out in the Ohio Revised Code.

Senior Editor and reporter at WVXU with more than 20 years experience in public radio; formerly news and public affairs producer with WMUB. Would really like to meet your dog.