On March 15, 1820, Maine was accepted as the 23rd state of the United States of America, thanks to the Missouri Compromise. With a majority vote of the region’s citizens, Maine was no longer part of Massachusetts.
In less than two years, we Mainers will celebrate our 200th birthday.
Maine’s 128th Legislature resolved to establish the official observance of the 200th anniversary of the formation of the state of Maine by creating the Maine Bicentennial Commission. By joint rule, the commission is comprised of 22 members. All but one is from some branch of the government, an imbalance that should be corrected post haste.
The creation of the commission shows foresight. The exclusion of the public at large, and Maine’s business community en masse, is a significant oversight. If the nominated commission members want to celebrate and reflect on our past while creating excitement about the present and embracing our potential, the recent 100th birthday events around Acadia National Park should provide a template for engaging the community at large.
Mainers can help fund the effort to observe our 200th birthday by purchasing bicentennial license plates that feature a five-pointed star emblem with the Dirigo banner. For front display only, license plates are available from Bureau of Motor Vehicles offices for $25. Many aspects of the bicentennial effort start next spring.
The Maine Bicentennial Conference Commission should rightfully observe, honor and relate the origins of our great state and its history. Yet, our 200th birthday should be a path to proclaim our state logo — Dirigo (“I Lead”) — for the generations ahead, illuminating a path for what Maine can be and will become. Perhaps one of the current gubernatorial candidates will fashion a successful part of his or her campaign around the farsighted vision that not only embraces our past, but carries us toward greater goals. This once-in-a-lifetime celebration has the potential to become — with energetic leadership — a defining moment in our state’s history.