Fifty years after its founding, Reston is still living by the principles of its founder, Robert E. Simon.
Master of Ceremonies Chuck Veatch — one of the original salesmen for the “New Town” back in the 1960s — read Simon’s words from Reston’s dedication at the Founder’s Day celebration at Lake Anne Plaza on Saturday.
“The deed of Reston celebrates not the completion of this new town, but symbolizes its beginning,” Simon said in 1964. “It is a place where people will come to live, work, play and call their own. We have just begun to build — there is very much more to come. But from this day forward, Reston is its people.”
Several hundred people — some of them original Restonians or children of original Restonians — were in attendance Saturday for the celebration of Reston’s 50th birthday and Simon’s 100th birthday. Also paying tribute — Gov. Terry McAuliffe; Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam; Sen. Tim Kaine; Rep. Gerry Connolly; County Supervisors Sharon Bulova and Cathy Hudgins; and Virginia General Assembly members Del. Ken Plum and Sen. Janet Howell.
President Barack Obama also sent his regards in a letter to Simon.
“You are part of a generation that helped guide our country through uncertain and extraordinary times, and the energy and creativity you have shown over the years serve as an inspiration,” wrote the president. “As you celebrate a century of memories, I hope you take tremendous pride in the community you founded 50 years ago and all you have done to ensure our neighborhoods are vibrant places to live and work.”
Reston’s place in history was was a top topic during the tributes. In Virginia in 1964, segregation was alive and well. Simon envisioned an open, inclusive community where people of all races, ages and incomes could live.
“We moved here in 1969,” said Hudgins, who is black. “Things were different in this country and in the world. We are lucky we found a place here. Reston has been able to give us and so many other people the feeling that they belong. … Reston is and has been a model.”
Sen. Tim Kaine, who also served as governor of Virginia from 2006 to 2010, put Simon’s vision in perspective.
“In 1964, when Reston opened, discrimination was rampant and legal,” he said. “It wasn’t until 1968 that the federal Fair Housing Act was passed. It wasn’t until 1971 that the Virginia General Assembly passed the South’s first fair housing law.
“Bob [Simon] was a real visionary,” Kaine said. “All human beings ought to be able to live together and be neighbors. When we look at Virginia history since World War II, Bob should be one of the 5 or 6 individuals. Bob took a state that was facing backward and turned it facing forward.”
Other Founder’s Day fun including musical performances from South Lakes High School, Terraset Elementary School and Hunters Woods Preschool; honoring the second and third generations of Restonians who have returned to live and work here; and a dedication of commemorative bricks and a historical marker; and, of course, birthday cake.