Dear President Trump,
What a thrill it was this morning to hear you say in your inaugural address that as of today the unheard would be heard. I have gone unheard for decades regarding the elimination of arts from our schools. I’m concerned, as I’m sure you are in this divisive time, that 30,000 years of what it means to be human have been reduced to an occasional elective. After all, you also promised this morning that the “American carnage” will stop now. I felt in those stirring words, a call for all humanity we can muster as a people to nurture the peace, empathy, and kindness that will be required to heal the national wounds.
However, in the last couple days, I’ve seen that your people are considering elimination of the National Endowment for the Arts. The NEA maintains a national presence that provides opportunities for artists of all ages. This presence keeps art alive even as it has been stifled in our schools by budget cuts and slandered as a frill.
Funny story. And speaking of carnage. The arts took their first hit back in the cold war days when I was a junior in high school. Right after the Soviet Union launched Sputnik, Congress passed the National Defense Education Act of 1958. We kids had to spend more time on our science and engineering skills so we could beat the Russians in the arms and space races. Those of us whose talents lay in the arts and humanities became second-class citizens—useless to the cause of winning.
Now, all these years later, as you point out, we are no longer winning. Our schools are in a shambles, the poor and jobless often have little hope of lifting themselves out of poverty, our infrastructure is crumbling, we don’t have adequate health care, and our leaders seem to lack the skills and character required to solve the problems affecting our well being. Having achieved the status of the world’s sole superpower, we lost. And what is the common denominator in all this: lack of creative and compassionate solutions. Makes you think, doesn’t it, that perhaps there’s something missing from a nation that runs on military power and GNP. Perhaps that missing link is the arts…those subjects that tell us the 30,000-year-old story of what it means to be human!
I’m sure your people who suggested axing the arts from the national budge just forgot themselves in giddiness of their first days in office. And that now that you’ve heard my unheard voice, you will have a little talk with them.