It's Never Too Early to Start Planning Big: Preparing for the 250th Anniversary of the United States

Written by: Ann Dillon, President General
June 12, 2017

A very momentous Independence Day is less than a decade away! In July 2026, the nation will celebrate 250 years of democratic governance of the people, by the people and for the people. What that means is that the beloved country our ancestors fought to create, not knowing if it would endure, is on the cusp of celebrating a quarter millennium of self government and a society where ordinary citizens may have a voice.

My hope is that the upcoming anniversary will inspire Americans to reflect on the privileges and responsibilities of participating in our society and to rediscover a sense of appreciation for the remarkable series of events that led our country to this point. As descendants of the men and women who secured American independence, as well as devoted stewards of the nation’s continued progress, Daughters are doubly qualified to help. It’s never too early to start planning big, especially for an occasion this significant. I encourage state societies and chapters to begin thinking about ways to make a lasting impact in honor of this historic nationwide celebration.

The National Society is thrilled that one of its own members has been afforded the privilege to contribute to this historic celebration at the national level. Honorary President General Lynn Forney Young has been appointed to the United States Semiquincentennial Commission, which was established to facilitate nationwide plans to observe the historic milestone. I have no doubt that Commissioner Young’s visionary leadership, compassionate nature and love of country will be an enormous asset to this prestigious group. Daughters will be pleased to have such a positive representative named to this commission. 

For more information about the U.S. Semiquincentennial Commission and Commissioner Young’s appointment, read the news release here.

Additionally, I have appointed Commissioner Young to lead the National Society’s newly established America 250! Committee, to guide DAR plans and initiatives related to the anniversary. While the U.S. Semiquincentennial Commission will focus primarily on initiatives leading up to July 4, 2026, the DAR’s own commemoration will stretch from 2023 to 2033, encompassing the anniversaries of events between the Boston Tea Party in 1773 and the signing of the Treaty of Paris in 1783. At this early stage, there is no need to appoint state and local chairs for the America 250! Committee. Instead, Daughters should direct their energy toward strategic planning and preparation.

America’s 250th anniversary affords each of us the chance to be a part of history. Through visible community projects, we can raise awareness of DAR and our patriotic mission. As the National Society gave significant gifts to the nation during the Bicentennial, this anniversary again affords us a chance to participate in high-profile events and celebrations. For chapters, this is an opportunity to undertake meaningful projects and events locally. Just think of the positive impact we can have on our country!

Chapters, take the initiative to start a conversation about 250th anniversary plans in your communities. Meet with local leaders and organizations, and offer to take on a leadership role in commemorations and celebrations. Doing so will enhance your chapter’s reputation as a forward-thinking, community-minded, collaborative service organization.

Additionally, Commissioner Young’s appointment to this high-profile national role presents an opportunity for chapters to attract local media coverage. We have created a template press release to help chapters announce DAR’s representation on the United States Semiquincentennial Commission. Chapters can download the release, customize it with chapter-specific information using the included prompts, and pitch the story to community media outlets. To add local relevance and incentive for your local news outlets to take more interest, relate the announcement to something happening in the community, such as an upcoming Independence Day celebration or a chapter event open to the public. Or, take the opportunity to explain how your chapter plans to approach the anniversary celebration—through commemorative events and membership recruitment, for example—and how the community can get involved.

Working together, we can enrich and strengthen not only our communities, but also the National Society. The 250th anniversary provides the best opportunity in our lifetimes to increase DAR membership and foster a renewed sense of appreciation for the men and women who founded our nation and preserved our freedoms. Commissioner Young and I were among the tens of thousands of women who joined DAR in the years surrounding the United States Bicentennial. Likewise, we anticipate that increased patriotic spirit and surging interest in family history surrounding the Semiquincentennial will create the potential for a similar influx of new members.

We have set an ambitious goal to reach 250,000 members during the Semiquincentennial celebrations. While this number may seem a substantial jump compared to the current membership count of 185,000, when broken down into manageable increments, the goal is very much within our reach if all chapters commit to the challenge. Significant positive publicity, both nationally and locally, should drive increased membership interest in the coming years. Chapters can also be proactive about recruitment. Remember: Every project, event and encounter serves as a showcase for the relevance of the DAR mission and the benefits of membership. When opportunities arise, be ready with an invitation, answers and assistance. We must work together to get ready to handle this influx of membership interest and ensure all of our chapters will be well equipped to welcome new members and foster engagement in those members so they will stay active for many years to come.

Chapters should encourage their current members to undergo training in the preparation of application papers now to ensure they will be ready to help prospective members document their Revolutionary War heritage. Additionally, the newly formed America 250! Membership Task Force is available to assist chapters in the preparation of their prospective member applications. Chapters should also evaluate their performance in helping potential members through the application process, and identify opportunities for improvement. Every name languishing on the Prospective Member Database represents a lost opportunity to welcome an enthusiastic, engaged new Daughter and put her talents to use in service of the National Society. The more quickly a prospective achieves membership, the more quickly she, the chapter, the community and the DAR as a whole will benefit.

If you plan to attend Continental Congress, I encourage you to attend the Saturday afternoon business session when we will have a special presentation on how to prepare your chapter to effectively manage prospective member interest and long-term member retention. For those unable to attend, we will be presenting the valuable information online so all members can have access to learn from it.

I hope I have piqued your interest in the exciting opportunities and important work the coming years will bring. Daughters, please share your ideas for anniversary celebrations and commemorations with Commissioner Young and our America 250! Committee at America250@nsdar.org. And stay tuned for more exciting announcements during Congress. I can’t wait to watch this celebration unfold!

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