Igniting Philadelphia’s Revolutionary Spirit: Building a People-Powered 250th Anniversary

PHILADELPHIA250
4 min readJul 3, 2023

Philadelphia leads the planning for America’s 250th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 2026. This Fourth of July, let’s remember that as the birthplace of American democracy, Philadelphia has a responsibility to do it well. As a City of Firsts, we can and should lead differently. Previous commemorations of our country’s history used a top-down approach with little community input or transformational impact. Here at PHILADELPHIA250, we’re opting for a bottom-up approach to the upcoming semiquincentennial commemoration, and we are asking you, the great people of Philadelphia, to be the lead architects of the 250th in 2026.

As an architect and urban designer, I understand the power of design-thinking. This groundbreaking, course correcting, and open-minded design methodology can fuel a revolutionary, people-powered commemoration the likes of which the world has never seen. And we need your help. Reimagining Philadelphia’s role in milestone anniversaries means we need your voice, and the voice of neighborhoods and organizations, to design practical programs that improve the quality of Philadelphians’ lives. It’s a once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform your passion into action and your actions into enduring legacies.

Every transformation starts with listening. Over the last few years, PHILADELPHIA250 has engaged with hundreds of people through one-on-one listening sessions, public calls for ideas, virtual office hours, public events, volunteer opportunities, and community meetings — with more planned for this summer and fall. With every engagement we learn more, adjust our thinking, and widen our invitation as a natural part of our design process.

Through active listening, we are shaping a 250th program plan that is inclusive, accessible, and uniquely tailored to the diverse voices and experiences of the people of Philadelphia including all religious institutions, our residents identifying as Black/African American, Indigenous, Hispanic, Asian/Pacific Islander, Caucasian, those finding us through immigration or asylum along with the full spectrum of LGBTQIA+ communities.

In 2026, the variety of 250th activities will stretch beyond the traditional historic district boundaries and straight into the heart of your neighborhood. From stoops to stadiums, with program partners big and small, the diverse places where we live, work and play will be on center stage. In 2026, you can be part of history when you contribute to your 250th-inspired neighborhood art project, take a revolutionary action walking tour, contribute to your neighborhood time capsule to be revisited at the 300th, and perhaps discover a new cultural venue while taking in a unique performance across town. Whatever you choose to do, you’ll be making your mark and creating your own 250th blueprint.

At the end of the day, what we leave behind matters most of all. Unlike past anniversary projects of museums, bridges, and parks, this time around, our legacy will be defined by collective impact. That’s why, this summer, we’re calling on you and your organizations to think about how to leave a legacy for Philadelphia in 2026, one that improves the lives of the Philadelphians you know — your family, friends and neighbors. By committing to a strategic initiative that can be scaled up or accelerated for the 250th, you can make an immediate and measurable difference on the issues that matter most to you.

Think about it — are you excited to offer 250 scholarships to black or brown students, support 5,000 new homeowners, or commit to registering 1,000 first-time voters? Through PHILADELPHIA250’s Leave a Legacy program started two years ago, you can turn your passions into legacies by making a 250th legacy pledge. The idea of leaving a legacy may seem intimidating, but legacies can be small and personal, and yet, the collective impact of our 250th legacy projects will have a transformational impact on the future of our city and country.

We’re Philly. We wouldn’t have it any other way.

Danielle DiLeo Kim is President & CEO of PHILADELPHIA250, the nonprofit leading and inspiring Philadelphia’s commemoration of American independence in 2026. You can reach her at danielle@philadelphia250.us.

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PHILADELPHIA250

Coordinating the United States’ 250th anniversary in Philadelphia. Creating a commemoration that is truly by the people, for the people.