Which president can lead us to ‘America250’?

News & Politics

Just two years from today, on July 4, 2026, the United States will celebrate the 250th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence and, with it, the founding of our country.

Those who were alive to remember our bicentennial celebrations of 1976 already know what to expect: a massive nationwide celebration, with fireworks and parades, with streets lined with flags and large festivals happening across the country.

Symbols and sentimentality will not suffice for this occasion. Whoever is president will need to outline a positive way forward for this country, shared values that can embolden us to face an uncertain future.

The campaign to observe our semiquincentennial already has an official name — America250 — and a website promising an effort “to commemorate and celebrate our 250th anniversary with inclusive programs that inspire Americans to renew and strengthen our daring experiment in democracy.”

What remains to be seen is the tone of the event. One of the curious realities of this celebration is that it will almost certainly be heavily affected by the outcome of the 2024 election.

Neither President Biden nor President Trump seems to think this “daring experiment” is doing very well at the moment. Each man takes every opportunity he can to express his dismay.

They differ on why American is failing. Biden sees a nation filled with violent dissenters and unabashed racists, the product of a genocidal past. Trump sees a nation corrupted by bureaucracy and foreign influence, in need of renewal.

The 1976 Bicentennial is looked back upon as a joyous, unifying affair, but that year the country was also grappling with the aftermath of Watergate and the tumult of the 1970s.

2026 will happen at a time when the meaning of America is more contested than ever, as reflected by a number of cultural and political flash points, big and small: the1619 Project, Black Lives Matter, “Hamilton,” “White Fragility,” January 6. It will be met with protests, soul-searching angst, and uncertainty about the nature of the American experiment.

Today America faces innumerable threats — rising inflation, a broken housing market, failing educational and medical systems, declining birth rates, and unchecked mass immigration.

As if the election of Trump in 2016 weren’t enough, COVID-19 offered undenable evidence of just how divided our citizenry is, with half of the population wanting to be left alone and the other half openly calling for them to catch a deadly disease and die.

Then there are our foreign policy problems, continuing to threaten global stability and trade: ongoing wars in Ukraine and Israel, a potential Chinese invasion of Taiwan, tensions between North and South Korea.

America250 suggests an opportunity to ask some pressing questions about who we are. Are we the same republic that George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, and Thomas Jefferson founded? Have we been corrupted beyond repair? Is the Constitution a dead letter? Does America even want to be America any more? Or are we doomed to national suicide, decline, secession, and a bloody civil war?

Whoever wins the 2024 election will have to stand on the national stage on July 4, 2026, and give a speech that speaks to this identity crisis.

Symbols and sentimentality will not suffice for this occasion. Whoever is president will need to outline a positive way forward for this country, shared values that can embolden us to face an uncertain future.

As we go into the ballot boxes this November, we should ask ourselves which of these two candidates has the vision, determination, and courage to tell America the hard truth: Unless we can recover some of the spirit with which we founded this great nation, the chances that it will be around for its tricentennial in 2076 are slim indeed.

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