President Seeks $100 Million for NEH's We the People Initiative

WASHINGTON, (May 1, 2003)

Requested 3-Year Funding Increase to Begin in FY 2004

President George W. Bush announced that he would request $100 million over the next three years to support We the People, an initiative administered by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) to encourage and strengthen the teaching, study, and understanding of American history and culture.

The increased funding for the NEH initiative would begin with a first installment in FY 2004 of $25 million, which was included in the President's budget request for NEH submitted to Congress in early February.

"For the ideas and ideals of democracy to be passed successfully from one generation to the next, our citizens--young and old--must know and understand the principles and practices on which our nation is built," said NEH Chairman Bruce Cole. "With the President's leadership and support, the Endowment will expand its efforts to foster excellence in conveying the lessons of American history through our schools, colleges, universities, and cultural institutions."

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

  • Major expansion of the NEH Seminars and Institutes program to provide humanities teachers additional opportunities to study significant texts on American history and culture;
  • A new grant program for model curriculum projects to help schools establish or improve course offerings in American history, culture and civics;
  • New grants for intensive two-week residential academies for school principals and teachers centered on American history, culture, and institutions;
  • A pilot project called "Landmarks of American History" to support summer enrichment programs for teachers at the nation's important historical sites, such as presidential homes, battlefields, and archaeological sites;
  • A new "National History Bee" for students that will include statewide competitions, followed by a national championship;
  • Local and statewide projects on American history, culture and civics sponsored by the 56 state humanities councils;
  • 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.

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, one survey has shown that one in five high school seniors did not know Germany was not a U.S. ally in World War II, and another nationwide survey of voting age Americans found that two-thirds of those polled thought that Karl Marx's dogma, "from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs," was or might have been in the Constitution.

The three-year funding that begins in FY 2004 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 took place May 1, in Washington D.C., as part of the We the People Forum on American History, Civics and Service, where the President's announcement was made in videotaped remarks.

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