Philly partners with TED for 250th anniversary speaker series

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Officials announced details for Philadelphia’s Semiquincentennial celebration Tuesday, May 21, at the Benjamin Franklin National Memorial at the Franklin Institute.

Philadelphia’s tourism bureau is partnering with TED to host a multi-year speaker series leading up to the 250th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 2026.

Local and state officials announced the program Tuesday, under the hulking Benjamin Franklin National Memorial in the Franklin Institute’s rotunda, and presented a list of confirmed events for the anniversary, also referred to as the Semiquincentennial.

World Cup matches, the MLB All-Star Game, a citywide arts festival, and a souped-up July 4 celebration are among the activities already planned, with more in the works, organizers said. As with 1976’s Bicentennial, Philadelphia is expected to play a major role in national celebrations.

“Over the next three years, we will be exploring democracy from different angles and through different viewpoints across a series of events hosted at key venues in Philadelphia,” TED CEO Jay Herratti told a crowd of stakeholders and elected leaders sporting “250” Liberty Bell pins.

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Visit Philadelphia, the region’s tourism agency, is partnering with TED to host a speak series leading up to and during the Semiquincentennial.JACK TOMCZUK

TED, known for its free online talks that generate millions of views, is kicking off the program July 9, with writer, comedian and commentator Baratunde Thurston speaking at the Barnes Foundation.

Similar smaller “fireside chats” are scheduled through November. Gov. Josh Shapiro, who attended Tuesday’s announcement, will headline one of the events later this year.

“I’m mindful that we’re gathering at a time when there is some real division and real pessimism in our society,” Shapiro said. “This TED Democracy series, this gives us a chance to celebrate Philadelphia, to celebrate Pennsylvania, to celebrate this inclusive and tolerant place that we have strived to build.”

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Pins commemorating the Semiquincentennial were handed out Tuesday, May 21, to those attending an announcement event at the Franklin Institute.JACK TOMCZUK

A “globally significant TED event series” will follow in 2025, and the program will culminate in February 2026 with a full day exploring the relationship between democracy and modern society, according to Visit Philadelphia, the region’s tourism agency.

The first Semiquincentennial festivities begin this year, on July 2, with a patriotic parade from the National Constitution Center to Carpenters’ Hall that will feature music, food and other activities.

Carpenters’ Hall will host a Young People’s Continental Congress that is set to convene this summer and next, and the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps will mark its 250th anniversary in October 2025 in Philadelphia. That same month, the Museum of American Revolution will be debuting an exhibit about the Declaration of Independence.

In 2026, the city is set to host NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament first and second round games; six FIFA World Cup matches; and the MLB All-Star Game. The PGA Championship will also be held in nearby Newtown Square.

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Gov. Josh Shapiro speaks Tuesday, May 21, during a Semiquincentennial at the Benjamin Franklin National Memorial.JACK TOMCZUK

“We are ready to show off this city and the commonwealth to the world,” Shapiro said. “In 2026, the eyes of the nation are going to be on us, and we’re going to have a whole year to celebrate.”

“We’re going to have fans from all over the world coming here to Philadelphia, coming here to pack our bars and eat in our world class restaurants and stay in our many amazing hotels,” he added.

While Philadelphia anticipates plenty of visitors in 2026, city leaders said they want residents to get involved, too.

“It is crucial that every Philadelphian in every neighborhood feels included, not just those who live in Center City,” City Representative Jazelle Jones said, adding that more details about neighborhood-level activities will be released soon.