As a former presidential appointee to the National Council of the National Endowment for the Arts, it was with particular concern that I learned of ex Governor Sarah Palin's 'trashing' of both the National Endowments of the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Her position went beyond the bounds of reasoned debate. To question whether the government should or should not fund these institutions is a legitimate issue of of civil discussion. But to refer to the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) as 'frivolous' institutions becomes a reflection on her wisdom and character.
Unquestionably the teaching and the support of the humanities and the arts has diminished in our progressively technologically demanding world. And it shows. Solid American values have been allowed to mutate in recent years to the ugliness of rampant irresponsibility, greed and civil and criminal fraud that, among other things, have become the root cause of the financial meltdown. A renaissance and respect in the arts and humanities that have in the past steered the nation to greatness are now needed more urgently than ever before.
This is a nation whose greatness has had many pillars. In the industriousness of its people, the fervor of its visionaries, the national sense of shared community and destiny, to name but a few.
Yet paramount to our pillar of nationhood has been our reverence and imbued understanding of the humanities and the great lessons of the human mind gleaned from the experience of history, and its impact on the history of the nation. A history formed in classical thought and instruction. No, not everyone was or has been a classicist, but our founding fathers were so immersed in its text and learning. It formed their character and was instrumental in forming the new nation. It was the humanities that fortified them through the struggles of the nation's young history, that saw it through difficult times and imbued us with the knowledge to overcome the vicissitudes of the moment, then, as those we were to confront in the years ahead. The humanities taught us we were not alone in our moments of challenge, and through that knowledge we evolved the inner fortitude to see it through.
No Mrs. Palin, the arts and humanities are not 'frivolous.' Should your singularly ungracious comments derive from a need to pander to a given political sector within our society, there too you are on the wrong side of the angels. As an appointee of President Reagan, a man whose interest in the nation's well being was acknowledged by most all, I can vouch for his abiding interest in the arts and the humanities and his manifold support of the mission of the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Governor Palin, may I suggest that instead of seeing Russia in the distance, a visit to a library nearby might be a more worthwhile exercise.
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