Leach Warns of ‘Crisis in the Humanities’ at Induction of the American Academy’s 230th Class of Scholars, Scientists, Artists, Civic, Corporate, and Philanthropic Leaders
National Endowment for the Humanities Chairman Jim Leach was inducted on October 9th into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, one of the nation’s most prestigious honorary societies.
Established in 1780, the Academy is an independent policy research center that conducts multidisciplinary studies of complex and emerging problems, such as social policy and American institutions, the humanities and culture, and education.
Since its founding by John Adams and other scholar-patriots, the Academy has elected leading “thinkers and doers” from each generation, including George Washington and Benjamin Franklin in the eighteenth century, Daniel Webster and Ralph Waldo Emerson in the nineteenth, and Albert Einstein and Winston Churchill in the twentieth. Leach is among 228 leaders in the academic disciplines, arts, business, and public affairs newly elected to the Academy as it celebrates the 230th anniversary of its founding.
Asked to speak on behalf of the class at a ceremony in Cambridge, Mass., Leach warned about a looming crisis in the humanities as U.S. universities increasingly curtail the humanities curriculum to make room for vocational disciplines. At the same time, Leach noted, federal funding for the humanities has declined while research expenditures for the sciences have tripled since the mid-1990s.
“Today civilization is on trial from two extremes: the looming prospect that proliferating weapons of mass destruction could be unleashed, and the reality that the more advanced and open a society, the more vulnerable it is to globalized terrorism,” said Leach.
“In this context, mutual understanding – the bridging of cultures, near and far — is the requirement of our age…The humanities are obligated to embrace the challenges that emerge from science and advance a fuller understanding of our times and a deeper grasp of human nature.”
In addition to Leach, other inductee speakers were: the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, G. Wayne Clough; renowned cancer researcher and Chancellor of the University of California, San Francisco, Susan Desmond-Hellmann; veteran diplomat and President of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Robert L. Gallucci; and former Federal Reserve System Vice Chair and current CEO of financial services company TIAA-CREF, Roger W. Ferguson, Jr. Actor and director Liev Schreiber and federal judge Diane Wood also participated in the program.
Nominated by President Barack Obama and confirmed by the Senate, Leach began his four-year term as NEH Chairman in August 2009. Leach previously served 30 years representing southeastern Iowa in the U.S. House of Representatives, where he chaired the Banking and Financial Services Committee, the Subcommittee on Asian and Pacific Affairs, the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, and founded and co-chaired the Congressional Humanities Caucus.
After leaving Congress in 2007, Leach joined the faculty at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School, where he was the John L. Weinberg Visiting Professor of Public and International Affairs until his confirmation as NEH Chairman. In September 2007, Leach took a year’s leave of absence from Princeton to serve as interim director of the Institute of Politics and lecturer at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.
Leach graduated from Princeton University, received a Master of Arts degree in Soviet politics from the School of Advanced International Studies at The Johns Hopkins University, and did additional graduate studies at the London School of Economics. Leach holds eight honorary degrees and has received numerous awards, including the Sidney R. Yates Award for Distinguished Public Service to the Humanities from the National Humanities Alliance, the Woodrow Wilson Award from The Johns Hopkins University, and the Wesley Award for Service to Humanity.
To see a video of Chairman Leach’s address, click here.
To see a complete list of the Academy’s 2010 class of new members, please refer to the attached file at the top.