Ohio Bicentennials, Embrace Them

Listen to the Story

We live in the age of Bicentennials. Columbus will celebrate its Bicentennial in 2012 and the Mayor has appointed a large and diverse set of committees to go forth and discover what the city should make of itself in its 200th year.

While all of that is going on, a number of other bicentennials are already underway. In 2008 alone, Ohio will see rather elaborate celebrations in Portage and Preble Counties and in Wooster, Mansfield and in the City and County of Delaware.

It seems that much of Ohio is in a mood to celebrate.

The coming of all of these bicentennials should not be all that surprising. Ohio began to be settled in the years after the American Revolution. Marietta was the first permanent settlement in 1788 – so its bicentennial was twenty years ago.

It took awhile for people to scatter themselves across the state. Dayton and Cleveland were founded in 1796. Franklinton – where Columbus is today – came into being in 1797. And in the years that followed, hundreds and then thousands of people came across the mountains, settled in the Ohio country and made it their own.

Now, two hundred years later, a number of people living out here want to remember the extraordinary efforts their forebears made to make Ohio their own.

And that is just fine.

But we should also remember not only how long we have lived here but also how short our sojourn in Ohio has been.

While we celebrate 200 years of settlement Jamestown, Virginia recently completed it 4ooth year of continuous habitation.

One thousand years ago saw Native Americans called mound builders create a culture that stretched across much of central Ohio. At one time thousands of mounds could be found in Ohio. Now only a few hundred remain.

At the same time, about one thousand years ago, Viking explorers were establishing settlements along the east coast.

And two thousand years ago next year, several legions of Rome were annihilated by people in Germany who dressed in skins and worshipped the forests in which they lived.

What we celebrate and when we celebrate it is often determined by who we are.

At this point in our history, we are the most powerful nation on Earth and – as far as I can see – we intend to remain that way. We are a people faced with many challenges – and many opportunities. How we face those challenges will to a great degree depend on how we see ourselves against the example of history. One reason we have all of these bicentennials is to remind ourselves of just who we have been – and of who we might be.

In that sense, our bicentennials are not just reminders of who we were – they are also portents of what we are likely to become. They are worth every bit of what we make of them – and what they make of us.

I hope you visit one or more of these bicentennials. I know I will.