Communities that were once struggling economically have rebounded through developing the arts in their areas. Museums, musical groups, history and humanities programs, annual festivals and creative arts projects not only bring cultural and employment opportunities for residents, they attract and hold the attention of people looking to relocate.
The NEH has inspired some extraordinary and valuable work. There is no question that the NEH has, on average, moderated the excesses of the academic humanities. The Cole administration, in particular, shows that an NEH chairman moved by love of the humanities, not partisan zeal, can do great things.
Part of the national Telling Project, this was one of a series of Florida Humanities Council public programs across the state giving veterans a platform to talk about what their service to us meant. In Orlando, for example, a Gold Star mother described the searing pain in her head the moment her son was shot in Iraq. In Pensacola, a Vietnam veteran described how he tried to numb painful war memories with alcohol. Hearing the stories gave me a profoundly deeper connection with another's human experience. It changed how I understand the challenges veterans face both in uniform and at home. Americans have always striven for knowledge. We read and build and invent. We discuss and quarrel and reform. America was born from ideas; we were humanities-driven from the beginning.
Defunding the NEA and NEH would be on the agenda of just about any Republican president. The party has long objected on philosophical grounds to this kind of use of taxpayer money as well as on cultural grounds to art produced using government funds that some conservatives believe is beyond the bounds of decency. But I hope we still have some capacity for outrage left, because when it comes to bang for the buck, the NEA and NEH deliver tremendous good to broad swaths of the country.
Through their grants, NEH provides millions of dollars across the country and in the state of Utah to support a range of programs including children's literacy projects; study groups that help veterans reintegrate into civilian life; continuing education of K-12 teachers through teacher‑education seminars; museum exhibits about America's rich history for urban and rural communities; and grants that help libraries and archives preserve America's cultural heritage, to name just a portion of their programs. The NEH, like the humanities disciplines it supports, is essential to the health of our democracy because it supports the development of our educated citizenry.