The Humanities: Key to America's Past and Future
    March 17, 2017

    Released this week, the Trump Administration’s FY2018 budget, “America First: A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again,” calls for the elimination of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). As one of the organizations that recommended the founding of NEH, we affirm our belief that humanistic study and professional activities are in the national interest and merit continued federal funding support.


    The current administration has argued that cuts must be made to rebuild and prepare our military for the future. Yet one of our military’s greatest assets is knowledge of the history, languages and cultures of the countries and regions where we are engaged. Indeed, the humanities have played a critical role in the United States’ efforts to protect our country since September 11, preparing our servicemen and women to better navigate the complex religious and cultural landscapes where they are deployed; enabling our diplomats to build alliances with key partners; and empowering our intelligence officers to brief our leaders on military strategy.


    The NEH strengthens our nation’s preparedness and commitment to its soldiers through programs such as Teaching the Middle East, which provides resources for K-12 teachers to introduce their students to the history, cultures, and languages of the Middle East, and Our Warrior Chorus, which trains Iraq and Afghanistan War veterans to connect with the civilian public through “modern stories anchored by the shared experience of classical works.” 


    The humanities and the arts also serve the national interest by helping us to explore what is common to all human experience—to seek peace, and to resolve conflicts that drain human and material resources both at home and abroad. Created Equal, a film series about the struggle for African American equality in the United States, is one notable example among many in NEH’s history.


    NEH grants have benefited every state, region, and territory of the United States, and its programs serving rural areas have stimulated growth and preserved important history that may otherwise have been lost. For example, NEH supports Appalshop, a cultural center, which “celebrate[s] the culture, voice and concerns of people living in Appalachia and rural America.”  NEH’s digital initiatives bring important and rare texts into the hands of students, researchers, and interested readers across the country, including one preserving and digitizing the papers of President George Washington. Regional cultural museums supported by NEA not only enrich our understanding of American culture, but contribute to local economies by attracting tourism.


    A skeptic might reply: Americans can still benefit from the humanities and arts without federal support. But philanthropic organizations do not have as their mission to support the national interest. If our goal is to protect this interest and preserve our history, we must continue to preserve the NEH and NEA, two of America’s great and historic institutions.


    Suzanne T. Ortega                          
    Council of Graduate Schools                                       



    Julia Kent,



    Other Statements of Support:

    Earl Lewis, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

    Pauline Yu, American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS)


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