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The United States Is Turning 250. Help Us Celebrate!

My grandfather in Maysville used to tell me, “You’ll never know where you’re going if you don’t know where you’ve been.”

This statement rings true as we think about commemorating the United States sestercentennial, or 250th birthday, in 2026. While the 1976 bicentennial broadly celebrated the country’s founding, the sestercentennial will explore the events and stories since our founding and how we have grown as a nation. To properly celebrate the occasion, the Kentucky Historical Society (KHS) is administering the state commission that will examine Kentucky’s impact on the nation during the past 250 years. 

While we all identify as Kentuckians, each city, town and region are remarkably different. Yet, our geographical, topographical and cultural differences create a diverse landscape rich with stories left untold. America250 presents us with a once-in-a-generation opportunity to expand upon our intersecting histories to better reflect the diversity, struggles and successes that bind us all together as Kentuckians and Americans. 

To conceptualize such a broad commemoration, KHS is embarking on a series of statewide conversations in nine communities, including Ashland, Bowling Green, Covington, Lexington, Louisville, Middlesboro, Owensboro, Paducah and Prestonsburg. These community listening sessions will highlight each area’s regionally specific values and interests while providing insight into our commonalities across Kentucky. From these sessions, we will create a framework to guide our work while also giving communities, citizens and institutions around the state ideas for programming and implementation. 

Of course, these conversations cannot happen without input from Kentuckians. We encourage history organizations, museums, tourism directors, those in the arts and cultural fields and other interested citizens to attend. Apart from guiding our work, we hope these conversations will jump-start America250 efforts statewide and successfully tell the stories of where our state has come over the last 250 years.

We recognize that our state is much bigger than these nine places, and this is only the beginning of our journey together over the next few years. The task is enormous, and the breadth of our histories even larger. As we gaze into 2026 and beyond, we must reflect upon how we meet this moment and what it signifies as we move forward together, both as citizens of our places and stewards of ideas that continue to inspire generations across our country. To meet this moment, I reflect upon how my grandfather’s words represent generations of people who have fought, achieved, lost and persevered through the darkest and brightest moments in our nation’s history—never shying away from the difficulties of where they’ve been, the realities of where they are or the triumphs of where they’re going.

McDaniel is the Kentucky Historical Society’s administrator for the America250KY Commission. For more information or to register to attend a community conversation, please visit history.ky.gov/america250ky, or contact McDaniel at tyler.mcdaniel@ky.gov.

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As the former Kentucky National History Day Coordinator, Tyler worked with educators and students across the Commonwealth to help bring the program and projects to life. Using his tools as a filmmaker, artist, and public historian Tyler amplifies already present voices and stories while highlighting ways the past is constantly influencing the present. His passions extend to the built environment through not only the structures themselves but the stories embedded within, alongside the ways that cultural and community identity are formed through place. Holding a BA in Media Production from Morehead State University and a Masters in Heritage Studies and Public History from the University of Minnesota, he has explored cultural oddities and socio-political systems through both rural and urban lenses. This multi-disciplinary approach has translated across multiple projects and organizations including Squallis Puppeteers, A Public History of 35W research project and museum exhibit, the Minnesota Main Street Program, Kentucky’s Rural-Urban Exchange, and Saint Paul’s African American Historic and Cultural Context Study – among others. His short films have been shown on KET and the Kentucky Folklife Digital Magazine, and at The Russell Theater, OPEN Gallery, multiple film festivals, the Kentucky Museum of Arts and Crafts, and various art shows.

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