President Biden signs bill to honor Thomas Paine

The Thomas Paine Memorial Association (TPMA) is pleased to announce that on December 27, 2022, President Biden signed a congressional bill to endorse a monument dedicated to the life and work of Founding Father Thomas Paine.

Under the leadership of Congressman Jamie Raskin (D-Maryland) and Congresswoman Victoria Spartz (R-Indiana), House Bill 6720 was included in the 2022 Omnibus Package. The package was passed by both the House and Senate in late December 2022.

TPMA will now begin working with the National Capital Memorial Advisory Commission (NCMAC) on advancing the project with a goal of unveiling the monument in 2026, which would coincide with the 250th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence.

NCMAC examines memorial proposals for conformance to the Commemorative Works Act, receives public comments, and makes recommendations to the Secretary of the Interior as well as to Members and Committees of Congress. TPMA looks forward to working with NCMAC members as sites are reviewed and a memorial design is developed. TPMA seeks to memorialize Thomas Paine in a way befitting his central role in the founding of the United States of America, as well as his worldwide call for liberty, justice, and equality.

Thomas Paine was one the greatest political writers and philosophers of the Revolutionary era and a patriot far ahead of his time. He served in the Continental Army, designed and patented a revolutionary design in single-span bridge technology, helped to establish the nation’s oldest and most honored abolition society, and advocated for old-age pensions, public education, and much more.

Margaret Downey, president of TPMA, said, “A friend to humanity and a foe to tyrants, Thomas Paine championed the rights of the “common” people and believed emphatically in the dignity and rights of all humans, which drove him to challenge the divine rights of kings, forever changing the course of history.”

Robyn Blumner, TPMA vice-president, stated, “Memorializing Thomas Paine with a monument in Washington, D.C. should unite us as Americans. In the throes of the revolution, Paine inspired us to conceive of ourselves as a ‘nation,’ and not just any nation but one built on the ideas of the Enlightenment, where the people govern themselves. Ultimately, we all became beneficiaries of that common inheritance.”

Annie Laurie Gaylor, secretary of TPMA, said, “Were Thomas Paine alive today, he would surely be saying ‘These are the times that try men’s and women’s souls.’ Thomas Paine’s pro-liberty, democratic vision is the antidote for our fractured nation.”

The following TPMA board members were thrilled with the news and made the following comments:

Author, producer, and director Ann Druyan stated, “Our nation today, and the one we hope to become, would be unrecognizable to our Founding Fathers, with one spectacular exception —Thomas Paine. Through his love of reason, his bravery, and his thrilling prose, Thomas Paine was the genius who created the dream of America. May the future monument created in his honor be a token of our renewed commitment to fulfill it.”

Actor, playwriter, director, and secular advocate John de Lancie said, “The monument legislative endorsement is a great achievement and by so many. And who will benefit the most? The hundreds of thousands over the years who will see the monument dedicated to Thomas Paine and be reminded of his greatness — for a moment, they will bask in the pride of being an American, and then, hopefully, go back to the daily struggle of keeping our country free for everyone.”

Professor of history, and chair of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte Africana Studies, Christopher Cameron stated, “Thomas Paine was one of the most significant Founding Fathers in a number of ways, especially in his early and consistent condemnation of slavery. Shortly after publishing Common Sense in 1776, Paine authored an antislavery essay and remained active in the abolitionist movement for the next 30 years, supporting Pennsylvania’s 1780 gradual abolition law, joining the Pennsylvania Abolition Society in 1787, and opposing the British slave trade in the 1790s. For this and so much more, he is worthy of a fitting monument in Washington, D.C.”

Actor and writer Ian Ruskin said, “Thomas Paine came into my life when I wrote a one-man play about him, and what an eye-opening experience it has been. I discovered not only a man who sparked the American Revolution with Common Sense and changed the world with his pen, but who saw the potential for a country of true democracy, equality, and justice for all its people. His vision can inspire us all as we continue the journey, he helped begin almost 250 years ago.”

Author, monologist, actor, and comedian Julia Sweeney stated, “Every American should know about Thomas Paine and his essential role in our nation’s founding. I couldn’t be happier that this monument endorsement has been passed and made law. And I couldn’t be prouder to be part of the team who helped make this essential monument realized.”

Actor, singer, writer, and teacher Marnie Mosiman de Lancie stated, “During the Christmas of 1776, as the Continental troops camped in misery at Valley Forge, Thomas Paine wrote ‘These are the times that try men’s souls. Let it be told to the future world, that in the depth of winter, the country, alarmed at a common danger, came forth to meet and to repulse it.’ While we usher in the New Year, let us also rededicate ourselves to retaining our hard-won democracy.”

Frances Chiu, author, editor, and educator said, “I am overjoyed to hear of the decision to endorse a monument of Thomas Paine, arguably America’s greatest visionary. More than any other contemporary, Paine grasped the importance of political and economic justice. He was not only among the first to propose American independence and a fully representative government in Common Sense, but also the first to lay the foundations of the modern welfare state including universal suffrage, assistance for the poor, and ‘Social Security’ in his book Rights of Man.”

The Thomas Paine monument project, and the formation of TPMA, was announced in 2021 during an online fundraising event. Todd Stiefel, president and founder of the Stiefel Freethought Foundation, tripled all donations received during that event. His generous pledge and triple match made the monument a reality. No government money or tax-payer money will be used for the creation of the Thomas Paine monument. Stiefel was thrilled with the passage and presidential approval of House Bill 6720. Stiefel stated, “I’m so proud of the Thomas Paine Memorial Association team. This project seemed like a long shot just a year ago, but today we have secured the legacy of the man whose words sustained the American Revolution.”

Recognition of this important legislative milestone will make the Sunday, January 29, 2023, Thomas Paine birthdate Zoom/Webinar event even more joyous. The two-hour celebration will take place at Noon (PST)/3:00 PM (EST).

The 2023 Thomas Paine birthdate celebration is sponsored by TPMA, the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Secular Student Alliance, Center For Inquiry, and The Freethought Society.

The title of the 2023 event is “Thomas Paine Birthdate Proclamation Celebration.” TPMA board members will each read a Thomas Paine Day proclamation as an example of how a proclamation can be written to honor the life of our freethought hero. Thomas Paine Day is celebrated on June 8th every year. In Europe, his date of death is used as an official time to reflect upon and honor his life accomplishments. Paine died on June 8, 1809.

The 2023 June 8th Thomas Paine Day will be enriched when more proclamations are written and approved by mayors, governors, and city councils. Instructions on how to write a Thomas Paine Day proclamation will be provided.

Representative Jamie Raskin will share updates on the Congressional front along with a heartfelt welcome. Representative Victoria Spartz will also deliver a welcome address and convey why she supports a monument to Thomas Paine.

The keynote speaker is Professor Emeritus of History at the University of London Greg Claeys. His speech, “Thomas Paine’s Collected Works: A New Edition,” will provide an update about efforts to uncover previously unattributed Paine writings.

Providing the celebratory music are selections from a new musical, The Crossing. The play places Thomas Paine and his American Crisis front and center. The Crossing was written by Jason Huza and John Allen Watts. Three songs from the play will be featured: “These Are The Days” is a song that opens and closes The Crossing; “On The Wheel of Time” is a duet sung by the characters Elizabeth and Abigail; and “Rights Intrinsic” showcases Thomas Paine’s vision for a new world.

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