Last week in this column, I asked the question: Are you where you ought to be and, if not, then you need to get to where you ought to be. One person who knows exactly where she ought to be comes to mind.
Cassandra Coleman, granddaughter of the late Exeter Mayor Joe Coyne, has always been inspired by her grandfather, As a result of his influence, she has chosen a life as a public servant.
That’s a big ask for anyone these day with the political scene, especially on the national level, being so volatile.
Cassandra began her political life taking over the remainder of her grandfather’s term as mayor of Exeter Borough in 2008 when he lost his battle with cancer. She was just 20 years old and a junior at King’s College at the time of her appointment. Let that sink in for a minute.
What were you doing at 20 years old? I certainly wasn’t interested in politics, let alone serving my borough. I’m sure I was just interested in going on dates with my girlfriend, hanging out with friends and staying out as late as I could. Talk about not being where I ought to be.
I can’t imagine how Cassandra handled that other than I know she put her heart and soul into it, all the while having her grandfather in the back of her mind.
She was, at that time, the youngest mayor in the United States and gained fame on a national level by being featured in Oprah Winfrey’s “O” magazine in 2011.
In addition to her mayoral duties, she gained experience interning with former state Rep. Phyllis Mundy, and she worked under U.S. Sen. Robert Casey as his deputy finance director for three years.
After serving a few terms as mayor, she stepped down from that position to accept a position in Gov. Wolf’s administration as the Northeast Regional director in 2015 and, later, was offered a position as Special Advisor to Gov. Wolf until last week.
At a ceremony in Harrisburg on Sept. 17, Cassandra was named executive director of the Pennsylvania Commission for the United States Semiquincentennial — a fancy way of saying the country will celebrate its 250th birthday in 2026.
According to Cassandra, in 2016 the U.S. Congress passed legislation, designating a national commission for the semiquincentennial celebration and, in that legislation named five cities — Philadelphia, Boston, Charleston, SC, New York City and Washington, D.C. — as priority cities of celebration.
Seven years is a long way off, but when you’re going to have a 250th birthday party, you might need a few years to plan.
This is a great opportunity for Pennsylvania to be in the national spotlight and Gov. Wolf felt strongly enough that Exeter’s Cassandra Coleman could successfully lead our state in commemorating what will be a huge birthday party.
Eight members of Congress, 16 private citizens and nine federal officials, including the Secretary of State, comprise the national committee.
The question is how do we as a state and as a nation celebrate our 250th birthday?
Cassandra tells me the biggest obstacle will be getting funding for the event. That’s a tough sell for western counties in PA to fund a celebration in Philadelphia and, as she said, “I just don’t want this to be a celebration.”
You may be hearing the word “epic” quite a bit in the next six years. It’s an acronym for the commission’s four pillars: E-Educate, P-Preserve, I-Innovate, C-Celebrate.
Since she isn’t from a large city, Cassandra feels that shows that this is a Commonwealth-wide celebration. Her biggest hurdle is to get all 67 counties in Pennsylvania to participate.
The PA Commission will be comprised of 24 appointed members, 20 private citizens, four legislative positions, each chamber and the governor will get four appointments, along with 13 ex-officios, cabinet members covering public safety, education, and so forth.
As of now, the commission is not funded but Cassandra is hoping by the end of the year the governor will help provide seed money to get the effort off and running. She’s hoping the state will eventually provide appropriations for the program but, in the meantime, there will be fundraising to get to 2026.
Money raised will be put back into the state by creating educational grants that will be split up into seven regions across the state, according to Cassandra.
A seven-minute video was produced with a script written by Cassandra and featuring many prominent Pennsylvanians to promote the 250th birthday party.
To watch the video, go to YouTube and search #America250PA or type into your browser, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ch-H_8yodXs.
On Facebook or any other social media, look up America250PA.
No doubt there’s a lot of pressure to head this commission but, if anyone can do it, it’s Cassandra. She’s determined to make this the best celebration to be remembered until the 300th birthday comes around in 2076.
I won’t be around for that one, so I better enjoy this one. No doubt, it will be a great show.
Happy birthday America … #America250PA … will be here before you know it.
Quote of the week
“The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom.” – Isaac Asimov
Thought of the week
“You do not write your life with words. You write it with actions. What you think is not important. It’s only important what you do.” – Patrick Ness
“Think before you speak. Read before you think.” – Fran Lebowitz