Over 400 members of the community turned out to witness the inaugural meeting of the federally established St. Augustine 450th Commemoration Commission held in St. Augustine on Monday, July 18. The two hour meeting, held in the Flagler College Auditorium, included a number of speakers and organizational actions by the Commission.
St. Augustine, the oldest continuously occupied European-established city in the continental United States, will commemorate its 450th anniversary on September 8, 2015. The commission is charged with planning and developing a suitable celebration in 2015 to honor the anniversary.
Among the actions taken by the Commission was the election of its chair and vice chair. Chosen by their fellow Commissioners to serve for the first year was Jay Kislak as Chair and Joe Boles and Katharine Dickenson as co-vice chairs.
The key speaker for the meeting as Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar who said “The story of St. Augustine is an integral part of the story of America, and the 450th anniversary of the city’s founding is an opportunity to commemorate the diversity of our past and the long journey to become the nation we are today. The Department of the Interior will work closely with the commission to ensure an appropriate commemoration that celebrates the city and honors its history.”
Salazar was joined by two members of St. Augustine’s congressional delegation, U.S. Senator Bill Nelson and Congressman John Mica. Also on stage to share remarks were Kurt Browning, Florida’s Secretary of State and representing the Spanish Embassy, Emilio Sanchez, President of the Spain Florida Foundation.
Congress established the Commission as part of the Omnibus Appropriations Act of 2009 and charged it with ensuring a suitable national observance of St. Augustine’s 450th anniversary by complementing the programs and activities of the State of Florida and the City of St. Augustine. Secretary Salazar announced the members of the Commission in April.
“I am pleased that these passionate and accomplished individuals have agreed to serve St. Augustine and our nation by serving on this Commission,” Secretary Salazar said upon announcing the appointments. “As stewards of our nation’s great history, the Department of the Interior and the Commission will work to ensure that the story of St. Augustine and our Spanish ancestors is recognized and preserved for generations to come.”
The members of the Commission are:
• Joseph L. Boles, Jr. , Mayor of St. Augustine;
• Katharine H. Dickenson, Historic Preservationist;
• Katherine Fernandez Rundle, Miami-Dade State Attorney;
• Michael Francis, Professor of History, University of North Florida
• Michael Gannon, Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus of History, University of Florida
• Bob Graham, former Florida Governor and U.S. Senator;
• Jay Kislak, President, Kislak Mortgage Corp. and National Park Foundation Board Member;
• Eduardo Padron, President, Miami Dade College;
• Bruce Smathers, Former Florida Secretary of State;
• Robert Stanton, Senior Advisor to the Secretary, Department of the Interior;
• Thomas S. Willis, Pastor, Cathedral Parish, St. Augustine, Florida;
• Gordon Wilson, Superintendent, Castillo de San Marcos and Fort Matanzas National Monument;
• Andrew Young, former U.S. Representative, Mayor of Atlanta, and U.N. Ambassador.
For biographical information on the Commission members, click here.
The Commission’s duties, as defined in its charter, are to:
• plan, develop, and carry out programs and activities appropriate for the commemoration;
• facilitate activities relating to the commemoration throughout the United States;
• encourage civic, patriotic, historical, educational, artistic, religious, economic, and other organizations throughout the United States to organize and participate in anniversary activities to expand understanding and appreciation of the significance of the founding and continuing history of St. Augustine;
• provide technical assistance to States, localities, and nonprofit organizations to further the commemoration;
• coordinate and facilitate for the public scholarly research on, publication about, and interpretation of, St. Augustine;
• ensure that the commemoration provides a lasting legacy and long-term public benefit by assisting in the development of appropriate programs; and
• help ensure that the observances of the foundation of St. Augustine are inclusive and appropriately recognize the experiences and heritage of all individuals present when St. Augustine was founded.
To read the minutes of the Commission's inaugural meeting, click here.
To read the enabling legislation for the creation of the Commission, click here.
The Department of Interior has established an email address for the submission of suggestions of questions regarding the Commission’s work. That email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
The City of St. Augustine has established a web site specific to the planning of the commemoration at www.staugustine-450.com.