The National Endowment for the Humanities is under threat
The arts and humanities belong to all Americans. Help preserve the National Endowment for the Humanities and ensure the health of our democracy. Now more than ever, we need thoughtful and informed citizens.
It’s long been said that America is much more than a country; it’s an idea. Arguably one of the best ideas human beings have concocted in their storied history on this planet. But ideas need to be shared and nurtured, or they go out of fashion. As former National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) chairman Bruce Cole said, “A nation that does not know why it exists, or what it stands for, cannot be expected to long endure. This is especially significant in a time of war. If we cannot define our liberties and our principles, how can we defend them?” He called this forgetting of founding principles “American Amnesia” and he made sure the NEH invested funds in combating it. The humanities (the study and preservation of history, ethics, the law, philosophy, literature, and anthropology) were of passionate interest to our Founding Fathers who drew liberally from their fountain of knowledge when dreaming up their idea of America. In honor of their work, the NEH helped fund the Founders Online project, a free and open portal to the letters and papers of six Founding Fathers: George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, and James Madison. This is just one of thousands of projects the NEH makes possible in every corner of our nation.
In North Dakota, the NEH works through the North Dakota Humanities Council to provide writing workshops for returning war veterans, distributes pop-up exhibits celebrating the 225th anniversary of the Bill of Rights to schools and libraries across the state, coordinates an ideas festival that bring some of the most innovative people in the world to North Dakota to talk about their groundbreaking ideas, helps schools bring living history presentations to their classrooms, runs book discussions in rural libraries, and funds the UND Writers Conference and Dickinson State University’s Theodore Roosevelt Symposium. These and hundreds of other programs happening in every corner of the state would not continue if the NEH is eliminated.
The NEH was created by congress to ensure that our democracy never loses its roots or its visionary leadership. “The arts and humanities belong to all the people of the United States,” they declared in its founding documents. Yet, President Trump is calling for the elimination of the NEH (along with the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting). It seems ironic that a populist movement to unseat elitists is now ensuring that only the elite will have access to a democratic education. According to Vassar College professor Barry Lam, “The humanities are never really threatened at the most elite places like the Ivy leagues. They are threatened at state colleges and universities, community colleges, and all of the places where upward social mobility is the primary goal in higher education. So really the need for the NEH is to provide humanistic education and resources for under-served communities.”
The humanities are not a luxury for the rich and entitled. They are the inheritance our democracy passes from generation to generation. We must demand that congress opposes the elimination of the NEH—the heart and soul of our democracy is at stake. No idea is more American than the National Endowment for the Humanities and no other institution works harder for the American people. Please call Senator Hoeven, Senator Heitkamp, and Representative Cramer and tell them to keep the idea of America alive by opposing the elimination of the NEH.