The largest county in Virginia, the state once home to America’s greatest Founding Fathers, will not “celebrate” the 250th anniversary of America’s 1776 founding after a “work group” including officials associated with the United States Army and George Washington museums read a survey that showed that liberals don’t think America’s birth is a cause for celebration.
The Fairfax County Semiquincentennial Work Group said events in 2026 should instead be a “Commemoration” of the date and “a continuum of recent Virginia commemorations—of 1607 and of 1619—that emphasize the challenges, diversity, and dynamism of the Commonwealth” and “an expression of our nation’s movement towards greater justice and equity.”
The state of Virginia — whose statewide 250th anniversary commission is led by the state’s Secretary of Education Atif Qarni — hired museum consultant Susie Wilkening to produce research to answer the question “Will Americans want to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence? And if so … how?”
Wilkening, who wrote that her “lived experienced is as a white female” and that her “behaviors skew heavily liberal,” said that she conducted research that found that conservatives, which she called “traditionals,” are “non-inclusive” “blind patriots” who have “generally less engagement with community,” are “less curious,” and “tend to be older, more male, less educational attainment.”
Liberals, which she called “neoterics,” are either “symbolic patriots” who believe “the United States is a great country… but so are others” or are “not patriotic at all.” Members of the last group, who “generally feel that other countries are better,” have the “most inclusive attitudes,” the report said.
The government-commissioned survey found that about 65% of respondents thought the event should be called a “celebration.” But the researcher ignored the results of her survey and said it should be called a “commemoration” because “[‘celebration’] skewed toward the Traditional Cluster, and the Neoteric Cluster was less enthusiastic.”
Conservatives were excited about America’s 250th Anniversary, but as a result, planning should be oriented around liberals’ priorities instead, “because the Traditional Cluster is all in anyway,” the report said.
“For those who had significant concerns about how inclusive events will be, or that the U.S. hasn’t lived up to its values, the word ‘celebration’ can appear to be tone-deaf (or worse),” Wilkening wrote.
Fairfax’s Work Group, which relied on the state consultant’s report, recommended that the county “Adopt the term ‘commemoration’ as the key identifying term and philosophical foundation for the semiquincentennial” and “Create and convene an advisory council to support the planning entity and ensure broad and inclusive community awareness and participation.”
The Work Group consisted of nine people, including Julie Almacy of George Washington’s Mount Vernon; Cameron Brumett, The Army Historical Foundation; and Elizabeth Maurer, National Museum of the United States Army.
The survey found that most people, when enjoying holidays or special events, wanted to “relax” and that “for many,” turning it into a lecture on the negative aspects of America’s history “would affect their desire to visit” negatively.
One respondent said, “more and more historical places and museums are focusing too much on apologizing for the institution of slavery and not enough on the actual history.”
But the “researcher” decided those respondents’ opinions were driven by “fear,” and the desire for an enjoyable holiday, too, was ignored because of the responses of the most activist liberals.
Liberals were also “less enthusiastic” than conservatives about the idea that a historical presentation should operate “by presenting the facts, and letting them make up their own mind.”
The survey listed what it said were “America’s Founding Ideals” and included “diversity.” It asked respondents to choose several of their most important “founding ideals,” and less than 30% said that was one of their most important values. The group nonetheless said that planning for the event should be centered around “inclusivity.”
When it came to diversity, conservatives said things like “We are Americans. We are in it together. What divides us makes us weaker. What unites us makes us strong and vibrant.” Liberals said things like “We no longer have a common story.”
In fact, most of the reasons to not celebrate America, in the eyes of the consultant, stemmed from America’s multiculturalism.
One respondent lamented that a celebration of America in 1776 would not have enough to do with “Latinx voices.”
Another, with her viewpoint attributed to being a “person of color,” said “I don’t think America has ever been great or is currently great.”
“Can we call ourselves great when we are a country that was literally built by slave labor and the genocide of the native people?” a third asked.
“Our country was founded because rich white men did not want to pay their taxes,” a fourth said.
“The founding stories are a mythology to uphold white supremacy,” a fifth claimed.
Other liberals indicated that their love for America was contingent upon their political party holding the presidency. “Being American is not a significant part of my identity. Quite frankly, I’m embarrassed when I go abroad to be identified as American due to the current administration,” one said.
Similar issues could play out at the federal level, as there is “The America250 Foundation, officially designated by the U.S. Semiquincentennial Commission to honor America’s 250th.”
Virginia’s consultant report asked: “If we are envisioning such different Americas… how can we come together to commemorate the 250th?”
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