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First America

-St. Augustine 450th Commemoration-

St. Augustine 450th Commemoration Commission

The St. Augustine 450th Commemoration is planned as a 2½ -year celebration, beginning April 2013 with the 500th anniversary celebration of the landing of Juan Ponce de Leon, the discoverer of Florida and, by all official accounts, mainland America, and ending in September 2015 with the 450th anniversary of the founding of St. Augustine by Don Pedro Menendez de Aviles in 1565 as the oldest, continuously occupied European settlement in the continental United States. The 2½ -year event will be bracketed by celebrations in 2012 commemorating the 200th anniversary of the Spanish constitution and a post-event economic impact study and other reports generated in 2016. The linear event will commemorate important chapters in St. Augustine and America’s history, including the Native American cultures prior to European arrival, the Spanish Colonial foundation of First America, and the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Movement.

The 450th Commemoration will focus on the cultural diversity that characterized the historical development of St. Augustine and the important influences that shaped the nation. When Don Pedro Menendez de Aviles founded St. Augustine, the settlement that they established was a vibrant, multicultural community early on, and one that is little known to most Americans today.

The story of St. Augustine not only provides an international narrative, but it chronicles the history of our own country, from the Native American tribes that first inhabited the area, through the Revolutionary war, Reconstruction and the building of a modern city, to the Civil Rights Movement that marched on these same streets.

Incredibly, when the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth in 1620, St. Augustine already had a fort, church, hospital, seminary, fish market and some 120 houses and shops. In a town plan established by royal decree in 1573, the oldest streets in America were laid down for Civil Rights Activists to march upon years later, for the fundamental rights our country emanates. Millions of heritage visitors walk these same streets today. St. Augustine had the first Port, and was the first city in the New World to organize trans-Atlantic trade. The First America celebration will give St. Augustine the opportunity to educate the world on the importance of commemorating St. Augustine’s rich history. St. Augustine will be the first city in the country to celebrate this remarkable achievement;  no other city in North America can make this claim.

While Jamestown Settlement, founded in 1607, and Plymouth Plantation are widely attributed as the beginnings of this nation, it was instead the Spanish Colonial settlement of St. Augustine and the extensive territory of La Florida that served as the model for subsequent colonial efforts by many countries, and was indeed the very foundation for the cultural and historical development of the nation. St. Augustine was First America.

A Federal Commission for the 450th Commemoration event was enacted on March 30, 2009 when Congressional House Bill 146 became Public Law 111-11 by order of United States President Barack Obama. The congressional act and public law creates a 14- member Federal Commission appointed by the Secretary of the Interior by way of recommendations of Members of Congress (5 appointments), the Governor of Florida (3), the National Park Service (1), the Chancellor of the State University System of Florida (1), the Mayor of St. Augustine (1), and the St. Augustine City Commission (3). Responsibilities of the Federal Commission include planning for the commemoration and its activities, providing technical assistance, creation of national awareness of the celebration, and the hiring of an executive director. The Commission will convene no later than five months following its creation and shall meet no less than three times a year.

The St. Augustine 450th Commemoration is planned as a 2½ -year celebration, beginningApril 2013 with the 500th anniversary celebration of the landing of Juan Ponce de Leon, thediscoverer of Florida and, by all official accounts, mainland America, and ending in September 2015with the 450th anniversary of the founding of St. Augustine by Don Pedro Menendez de Aviles in1565 as the oldest, continuously occupied European settlement in the continental United States. The2½ -year event will be bracketed by celebrations in 2012 commemorating the 200th anniversary ofthe Spanish constitution and a post-event economic impact study and other reports generated in2016. The linear event will commemorate important chapters in St. Augustine and America’s history,including the Native American cultures prior to European arrival, the Spanish Colonial foundationof First America, and the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Movement.The 450th Commemoration will focus on the cultural diversity that characterized thehistorical development of St. Augustine and the important influences that shaped the nation. WhenDon Pedro Menendez de Aviles founded St. Augustine, the settlement that they established was avibrant, multicultural community early on, and one that is little known to most Americans today.The story of St. Augustine not only provides an international narrative, but it chronicles the historyof our own country, from the Native American tribes that first inhabited the area, through the Revolutionary war, Reconstruction and the building of a modern city, to the Civil Rights Movementthat marched on these same streets.Incredibly, when the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth in 1620, St. Augustine already had a fort,church, hospital, seminary, fish market and some 120 houses and shops. In a town plan establishedby royal decree in 1573, the oldest streets in America were laid down for Civil Rights Activists to march upon years later, for the fundamental rights our country emanates. Millions of heritagevisitors walk these same streets today. St. Augustine had the first Port, and was the first city in theNew World to organize trans-Atlantic trade. The First America celebration will give St. Augustine the opportunity to educate the world on the importance of commemorating St. Augustine’s richhistory. St. Augustine will be the first city in the country to celebrate this remarkable achievement;no other city in North America can make this claimWhile Jamestown Settlement, founded in 1607, and Plymouth Plantation are widelyattributed as the beginnings of this nation, it was instead the Spanish Colonial settlement of St.Augustine and the extensive territory of La Florida that served as the model for subsequent colonial efforts by many countries, and was indeed the very foundation for the cultural and historicaldevelopment of the nation. St. Augustine was First America.

A Federal Commission for the 450th Commemoration event was enacted on March 30, 2009 whenCongressional House Bill 146 became Public Law 111-11 by order of United States President Barack Obama. The congressional act and public law creates a 14- member Federal Commissionappointed by the Secretary of the Interior by way of recommendations of Members of Congress(5 appointments), the Governor of Florida (3), the National Park Service (1), the Chancellor ofthe State University System of Florida (1), the Mayor of St. Augustine (1), and the St. AugustineCity Commission (3). Responsibilities of the Federal Commission include planning for thecommemoration and its activities, providing technical assistance, creation of national awareness ofthe celebration, and the hiring of an executive director. The Commission will convene no later thanfive months following its creation and shall meet no less than three times a year.

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