Why The Democratic National Convention Is Coming To Philadelphia
40 years ago, Philadelphia’s most famous fictional character, Rocky Balboa, rose up from the streets, got his shot at the big time, got the girl, and eventually went on to become Champion of the World (in the sequel). The real life Rocky, then unknown actor Sylvester Stallone, enjoyed a similar success story – he was nominated for Best Original Screenplay for his script, Best Actor for the role, and his homegrown movie won Best Picture, while becoming the highest grossing film of America’s Bicentennial. In short, Philly helped both Rocky and Stallone live the American Dream.
40 years later, Stallone and Rocky are making their first return trip to the Oscars, with a Best Supporting Actor nod for Creed, and 240 years after the Founding Fathers gathered here at Independence Hall to sign the Declaration of Independence (they also adopted the Constitution in the building), the DNC is coming to the City of Brotherly Love to hold its nominating convention (July 25-28), which is already shaping up to be more interesting than many pundits thought it would be.
In an earlier piece I took a look at why Cleveland, a city enjoying a dramatic rebound and impressive tourism growth, was a great choice for the Republicans and the RNC Convention. So how about Philly?
From a political point of view, the city has an outstanding track record, starting obviously with the First Continental Congress, the Declaration of Independence, and the Constitution. But it has also hosted the DNC twice before, and the RNC an impressive six times, including the party’s very first convention in 1856. From a media and audience perspective, a whopping one-quarter of the U.S. population lives nearby, within a five-hour drive. For the Democratic faithful, then presidential hopeful Barack Obama delivered one of his most famous speeches, “A More Perfect Union,” at the National Constitution Center here in 2008. All this makes the city a pretty good backdrop for political theater.
The Convention will attract a lot of visitors, some of them first timers, and lot of national media attention. From a tourism perspective, Philadelphia deserves the national stage. It has a treasure trove of iconic American historical attractions rivaled only by Boston, including Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, nearby Valley Forge National Historical Park, Carpenters Hall, the National Constitution Center, Declaration/Graff House (where Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence), the Betsy Ross House, Congress Hall (the old home of the U.S Congress), and Christ Church, where Colonists broke away from the Church of England. The newest addition is the One Liberty Observation Deck on the 57th floor of One Liberty Place, with wrap-around, floor-to-ceiling windows, interactive kiosks about Philadelphia landmarks and other exhibits, just opened at the end of last year.
From a culture perspective Philadelphia is an art mad city. Movie fans know its famous steps from Rocky, but the Philadelphia Museum of Art has quite a bit inside as well, a world class collection spanning more than 2,000 years, including sculptures, paintings, textiles, arms and armor, photography, prints and drawings. The Barnes Foundation relocated to its new Philly home less than four years ago, but dates to 1922 when Albert Barnes established it to promote education and appreciation of fine arts and horticulture. It has one of the world’s most important collections of Impressionist, Post-Impressionist and early Modern paintings, along with Old Master works, Native American jewelry, antiquities and African sculpture. In recent decades, Philadelphia has become known as the City of Murals, with the most influential mural arts organization in the world. Started as an anti-graffiti initiative in the 1980s, the City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program has created 3,800 public works throughout the city and is truly one of a kind. Every March, the city blooms, literally, with the nine day Philadelphia Flower Show, a huge attraction that is easily the largest flower show in the United States, a massive production dating back more than 186 years. It is held in the Pennsylvania Convention Center. The city is also home to the National Museum of American Jewish History, a Smithsonian affiliate.