Philly park almost lost a statue of William Penn – PA’s founder and incredibly inclusive colonist

January 9 – After an announcement from the National Park Service that it planned to rehabilitate Welcome Park in Philadelphia by removing the statue of William Penn, a whole lot of people took to the internet. 

Penn founded Pennsylvania and the park is at the site of his former home in the city. 

NPS said the plan to remove the statue as part of the rehabilitation would “provide a more welcoming, accurate, and inclusive experience for visitors.”

An online public comment section was to be left open for two weeks to see what people thought about the rehabilitation efforts. 

It sure didn’t take two weeks for NPS to reverse the decision to remove the statue. 

PA Governor Josh Shapiro didn’t like the idea of removing the statue, either. 

Pat Ryan of NewsTalk 103.7FM said, “It’s the National Park Service calling for an expanded interpretation of Native American history in Philadelphia.” 

Michele Jansen of NewsTalk 103.7FM said, “It’s funny because they just they said, oh, we’re going to put this out for public comment about how we’re going to rehabilitate, which is kind of an odd word to use, the Freedom Park which is just a small part of the Independence Park. What’s interesting about that is the whole Independence Park of which this is a part is built to celebrate the founding of our country and the founding ideas that preserves the national and international symbols of freedom and democracy. So it’s about founding and freedom. Why in the world would you have the peoples that lived there ahead of that whole history? That doesn’t even make any sense for the mission of the entire park number one, number two, oh, we’re going to put this up for public comment, but we’re telling you ahead of time we’re taking down the statue, we’re taking down the statue. We’re taking down the imprint of his house, not to be restored. Later on, we’re going to get rid of the timeline to be replaced by panels which didn’t really explain what would be on those panels. Why in the world are you asking for public comment if you’ve pretty much already decided the major changes you’re going to make? Number two, why would you do the history of Native Americans when the whole thing is about the founding of Pennsylvania in this country? It just doesn’t make sense. Then we get this lame story about oh, it was prematurely released and we’re not doing anything. The backlash on Twitter was amazing and I think that’s what they were responding to.” 

Attorney Clint Barkdoll said, “The weird thing about this is this piece of the park, it was rebranded in the 80s as Welcome Park. Welcome was the name of the ship on which William Penn arrived in Pennsylvania when he came here. So it made no sense to the extent that this piece of the park seemed to be dedicated to William Penn and Pennsylvania’s history, and then the idea they would take the statue down, just makes no sense. You do wonder, because if you looked at Shapiro’s announcement yesterday, it says he reached out to the National Park Service. Were there some key people like Shapiro, who knows who else, that just called down there to DC and said no way. There’s no way you’re going to do this and quickly the Park Service retracted the plan.”

Jansen pointed out, “This is the problem with applying equity to everything, which is what Joe Biden demanded through executive orders of all of his cabinets and including the National Park Service, and them trying to do this ridiculous dance of who do we have to appease and what part of Western culture do we have to tear down to appease the ideology of equity? It’s just such a mistake. There was a huge backlash. They don’t need that headache right now. Philadelphia doesn’t need that headache right now. Biden doesn’t need that headache right now. So the people even doing this weren’t thinking. I bet we’ll never find out who the plan was. Although the head of the National Park Service right now is a person that’s incredibly engaged in all of the equity nonsense. It was a bad idea. Obviously the backlash was huge for the National Park Service, for one tiny little park in Philadelphia. I just hope they’ve learned a lesson but I doubt it. They just got caught on this one. Oh, somebody leaked it ahead of time. I’m surprised they just didn’t do it and we found out afterwards. The irony of a man who left his home country, left his home nation because of the government imposing an ideology, a belief system on him was now going to be removed on the park dedicated to him because of an ideology and a belief system that the government is imposing on all of us right now.”

Barkdoll said, “We know around the country, some of these statue removals occurred exactly like you described. They would get removed and then the public would be informed after the fact. Thankfully, that did not occur here and thankfully, it sounds like the Penn statue is now up for good, but it does make you wonder internally some of the deliberations at these agencies like the Park Service, you can just envision the debate and the conversation that went on and someone on that group, probably a very progressive person said hey, we need to get that statue out of there. It’s not reflective of inclusion and it’s offending people. So thankfully, there was a lot of pushback on this to save the statue.” 

Jansen added, “Historically, Penn was very inclusive. He dealt with the Indians in the most fair way that you could do.”

State Senator Doug Mastriano said, “The only Park in Philadelphia that’s completely dedicated to William Penn, where his house was in 1699 to 1701. It’s called Welcome Park, named after the ship he took to come over to Pennsylvania. Anyway the National Park Service announced on Friday that they were going to tear down his statue, remove the basement of his house there and then do a reinterpretation, taking down panels about this history and Quakerism and talk about the native people instead. Obviously we posted that. We had outrage across the state online and people got motivated. The National Park Service said we’re going to have a two week window for people to comment but that statue’s coming down. We’re not keeping William Penn there. They opened up the comment period yesterday for one day and they changed their position because of the outrage from across the state. It’s a huge victory and I’m really excited that the people’s voices were heard.”

Jansen said, “It didn’t make any sense because the whole Independence Park which this park is a part of is dedicated to the founding of this country and its amazing principles. William Penn founded our state and then many of his principles were taken into the Constitution, Declaration of Independence, our freedom of this country. Why would they interview eight Native American tribes that predated this time period? That doesn’t make any sense when we’re talking about the founding of the United States.”

Mastriano said, “It’s absolutely absurd. I mean, so are they going to rename our state then? This is just ridiculous. Whether these historic figures are villains or not is irrelevant. Let me just say that up front. The southern statues should be left alone as well because it reminds us of the time and events and people and hopefully we learn from mistakes of the past. In this case here, he was the most progressive politician in the Colonial Period. He wanted equal rights for all men and women. He was opposed to slavery. He wanted religious tolerance and freedom because he was in jail three times for his faith and three times for his politics not being in line with the King or the parliament. He created this state here to be a place where people can come for freedom. There was no even pretense that they could come up with anything other than hey, we’re just going to reinterpret this whole thing here. It’s utter nonsense, political correctness gone awry.”