It’s our 200th birthday and we are #ILLINOISPROUD

Leslie Munger is Deputy Governor of Illinois

The Land of Lincoln has a big birthday coming up: Illinois turns 200 in 2018. The bicentennial is a yearlong opportunity for Illinoisans to ­celebrate why we are #IllinoisProud.

Many celebrations of Illinois’ 200th birthday are planned throughout the state between Dec. 3, 2017, and Dec. 3, 2018. We will be highlighting the many people, places and things that have been BORN, BUILT & GROWN in Illinois.

Our history is rich. We are the land of world-changing events, including the Lincoln-Douglas debates, the Emancipation Proclamation, and the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago.

We have built championship sports teams, one of the tallest buildings in the world, and – with Route 66 – one of the United States’ most historic roads.

Our universities make significant contributions to not only the state, but also the world. Oracle, Netscape, YouTube, PayPal, Tesla, Groupon and Mosaic are among the many leading companies that were born and built by graduates of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Illinois is a home of firsts, from the original all-color TV station in Chicago to the nation’s oldest public wildlife park – the nearly 150-year-old Lincoln Park Zoo.

We are proud to be the state of great leaders — in politics, the arts, science, education, sports and human service. President Ronald Reagan was born here. Presidents Abraham Lincoln and Barack Obama built their political careers in Springfield. Gwendolyn Brooks, Jane Addams, and Betty Friedan pioneered and grew the women’s rights movement.

Our veterans are some of our nation’s highest-achievers, including 81 Medal of Honor recipients. Hero Street U.S.A. in Silvis honors eight Hispanic war heroes who gave their lives during World War II and in Korea.

We have innovators and young entrepreneurs like Sarah Frey – America’s pumpkin queen – who has shipped millions of pumpkins throughout the United States and the world.

These are only some of the people, places, and things BORN, BUILT AND GROWN in Illinois that make us #IllinoisProud. Illinois Bicentennial is a celebration of our rich, diverse past and an investment in our future.

During the bicentennial year, we will celebrate our state’s legacy with several signature projects. A new plaza will showcase Springfield’s ­history and ties to Abraham Lincoln, thanks to a community partnership with Illinois REALTORS®. The res­toration of the Illinois Executive Mansion in Springfield will also be completed in time for bicentennial ­celebrations. A unique K-12 Bicentennial ­education curriculum will be offered to all schools across the state that features a historical timeline, a teacher’s guide, a wallboard for ­display, and digital learning components for students. HONOR 200 will recognize veterans across the state who go above and beyond ­serving their fellow veterans and their ­communities. A Bicentennial Road Scholars Speakers’ Bureau will travel throughout the state in conjunction with the Illinois Humanities Council. And the #IllinoisProud Awards will encourage “Everyday Heroes” statewide to cultivate greater social engagement with the bicentennial celebration.

Signature events are also planned to help celebrate the ­bicentennial. Kickoff events were held in Chicago and Springfield on Dec. 3, and statewide municipalities coordinated simultaneous flag raising ­ceremonies at noon on Dec. 4. On Aug. 26, which is the 200th birthday of our state constitution, we will host a Route 66 Motorcycle Ride between Chicago and Edwardsville, ­dedicate the new plaza in Springfield, host a celebration at the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Community Center in East St. Louis, and radio ­station KSHE-95 will sponsor a Madison County Community Rock Concert. The yearlong celebration will ­culminate with the Illinois Bicentennial Birthday Party at the United Center in Chicago on Dec. 3, 2018.

In addition to signature ­projects and events being led by the Bicentennial Commission, we ­encourage statewide event and ­project managers, planning activities between now and Dec. 3, 2018, to apply for endorsement to become an official part of Illinois Bicentennial. Seals of Endorsement will be ­available to endorsed events and projects for use on marketing materials, in addition to listings on the bicentennial ­website, inclusion in ­official bicentennial publications, and social media ­promotions. Visit the PARTICIPATE page at illinois200.com for more information and to apply.

We encourage every Illinoisan to join us for this once-in-a-lifetime ­celebration of our state’s 200th ­birthday. Please visit illinois200.com, use the hashtag #IllinoisProud and see how you can take part.

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