It was nearly four centuries ago that three small ships, battling the roaring waves and turbulence of the Atlantic Ocean, carried 104 intrepid adventurers from Blackwall, England, to the shores of Virginia and what the Europeans called the "New World." Here, on the banks of the James River, they established Jamestown as the first permanent English settlement in the Americas in 1607. America's 400th Anniversary commemorates their historic journey- the journey that changed the world-and the legacies on which our nation was founded. From local festivals to international summits, 2006 and 2007 will be filled with activities commemorating this pivotal moment in world history.
Despite disease, famine, and on-and-off conflicts with the native Algonquians, the colony grew steadily and prospered, with three major developments in the Jamestown settlement that remain its enduring legacies:
• Representative government-the first democratically elected assembly in the New World convened in the Jamestown church on July 30, 1619. The democratic institutions governing us today have their roots in this first assembly.
• Cultural diversity-Jamestown brought together three cultures from three continents-Virginia Indians, Europeans and Africans-creating a tradition of multicultural society that continues to shape our lives today.
• Free enterprise-The Virginia Company was first and foremost an economic enterprise, chartered by King James I to settle Virginia and create wealth. By contrast, the Pilgrims who settled Massachusetts 13 years later came primarily for religious freedom.
As America commemorates the 400th Anniversary of its birthplace, you too can participate in commemorating that first journey across the Atlantic-the journey that changed the world. There are several ways to do this:
• Visit. Jamestown Settlement is a living history museum operated by the State of Virginia, and Historic Jamestowne, site of the original fort, is operated by APVA Preservation Virginia and the National Park Service. Together, these sites provide complementary experiences that transport you to a time when the seeds of our nation were being planted. Along with Yorktown and Colonial Williamsburg, Jamestown is part of America's Historic Triangle, a 23-mile-long area encompassing three of the most important sites in early American history. The venues will play starring roles throughout the commemoration as the events and programs that encompass America's 400th Anniversary unfold.
• Plant. No matter where you live, you and your family can plant an Anniversary Garden, creating a living, growing commemoration in your own yard and community. As you do this, you will continue the legacies of Jamestown, planting the seeds of promise and hope for the next generation. Plant lists and suggested garden layouts are available online.
• Learn. Tune in to "Jamestown Live" on November 9, when an "electronic classroom" will be created for students to experience the story of America's birth. "Jamestown Live" will be broadcast live from Jamestown Settlement museum and Historic Jamestowne.
• Reflect. The legacies of Jamestown impact modern American society every day. When you read the newspaper, participate in a PTA or school board meeting, or vote on issues important to you, take time to reflect on our shared responsibility to continue the legacies of Jamestown. The original settlers were on the "journey that changed the world"; each one of us can embrace this opportunity to continue that historic journey into a better tomorrow.