Anyone who drives over the Walt Whitman Bridge this summer will likely spot a billboard alerting them of the 250th anniversary of America on July 4, 2026.
That’s because the Semiquincentennial Commission, the body in charge of organizing the commemoration, launched its first-ever publicity campaign Thursday, July 1.
Many of the advertisements will be focused in Philadelphia, which, similar to 1976’s Bicentennial, will host several of the nationwide celebration’s signature events.
A public service announcement will be airing across the country on stations controlled by Comcast/NBCUniversal.
In the 30-second spot, voice overs from former presidents Barack Obama and George W. Busch and former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice are accompanied by historic footage, with cameos from Olympic track star Jesse Owens, scientist George Washington Carver and Marilyn Monroe.
The ad ends with a plug for the America250 website, which features rotating images of an astronaut and the Liberty Bell along with a 5-year countdown clock.
“We’re just formally introducing ourselves,” said Keri Potts, vice president of communications and public relations for America250. “We want people to just kind of get used to the idea that this thing is coming.”
Potts told Metro that organizers will be listening and getting feedback from the public about how they want to mark the semiquincentennial. America250 has not yet released details about any planned events in Philadelphia or elsewhere.
“This summer is us talking to the American people but hoping they talk back,” she said. “We want to hear people’s ideas.”
“We also want to hear what they might be concerned about,” Potts added. “I think people might be concerned about, ‘Am I being represented?’ or ‘How are you approaching these things?’ We want to hear that as well.”
America250, on its website, boasts that it will be the “biggest, most inclusive commemoration in our nation’s history,” a goal that could be challenging given the polarized nature of the country’s politics.
Prior to launching the ad campaign, America250 conducted a survey, with encouraging results, they said, about the public’s willingness to celebrate the nation’s founding.
Nearly 80% of the 1,500 people polled said they would rather live in the United States than anywhere else, and 92% reported wanting to make America a better place. More than three-quarters of respondents associated the country with freedom, opportunity and hard work.
About 1% had heard of the semiquincentennial, a statistic Potts and her team hope will improve as the date draws closer.
America250 plans to run publicity campaigns between July 4th and Veteran’s Day every summer ahead of 2026, officials said.
In addition to Philadelphia, targeted ads will be placed on billboards, bus shelters, Ubers and other places in New York City, Boston and Charleston, South Carolina. Federal lawmakers decided those four cities should be the hubs of the 250th anniversary.
The Semiquincentennial Commission was created in 2016 and has been meeting for the past couple of years.
It is filled with Philadelphia power players, including Comcast executive David L. Cohen, U.S. Rep. Dwight Evans and former U.S. Rep. Bob Brady. The commission is headed by Dan DiLella, who runs Newtown Square-based real estate agency Equus Capital Partners.