Budget Request Calls on NEH to Fight American Amnesia

WASHINGTON, (February 3, 2003)

FY 2004 funding proposal includes $25 million for We the People initiative

President Bush's FY 2004 budget request for the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) seeks funding of $152 million, including $25 million for the agency's We the People initiative, designed to encourage and strengthen the teaching, study, and understanding of American history and culture.

"Democracy is not self-sustaining. Americans must understand the principles and practices on which our democratic nation is built so that they can pass the ideals of freedom down from one generation to the next," said NEH Chairman Bruce Cole. "The President's request recognizes the Endowment's efforts to increase our citizens' understanding of who we are as a nation, and it affirms his desire to make sure that understanding reaches all Americans."

The new funding will support a variety of We the People special projects, such as the following:

  • Major expansion of NEH's Seminars and Institutes program to provide humanities teachers additional opportunities to study significant texts on American history and culture;
  • Support for model curriculum projects to help schools establish or improve course offerings in American history, culture and civics;
  • Support for local and statewide projects on American history, culture and civics sponsored by the 56 state humanities councils;
  • Funding to inaugurate an annual National History Bee focused on We the People themes;
  • Enhanced support for American Editions and Reference Works, fundamental scholarly resources for understanding who we are as a nation; and
  • Special exhibitions in museums and historical organizations and reading and lecture programs in libraries for out-of-school audiences keyed to We the People themes.

The FY 2004 budget will continue support for previously announced We the People programs, including an annual national essay contest for high school students on the theme of "The Idea of America" and an annual "Heroes of History" lecture, in which an acclaimed humanities scholar tells the story of heroic figures in American life and history. Both the first awards ceremony and lecture will be held on Tuesday, Feb.18 in Washington, D.C.

President Bush launched the We the People initiative on Constitution Day, Sept. 17, 2002, at a special White House Rose Garden ceremony. The President cited numerous studies that have indicated that many young Americans have at best only a passing knowledge of our nation's history and principles of democratic government. For example, surveys have shown that one in five high school seniors did not know Germany was not a U.S. ally in World War II, and 40 percent of college students at 55 elite colleges and universities could not place the Civil War in the correct half century.

The FY 2004 budget also includes funding for NEH grant programs in support of high quality education, research, preservation, and public programming in the humanities and for the projects and programs of the state humanities councils; challenge and other matching grants to stimulate and match nonfederal contributions to humanities projects; and the Endowment's administrative expenses necessary to operate the agency.

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