Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2012

Floor Speech

Date: July 27, 2011
Location: Washington, DC


Mr. HOLT. Mr. Chairman, last month I gathered almost 200 individuals interested in the arts and humanities to discuss National Endowment for the Humanities and National Endowment for the Arts programs. The turnout was impressive. But considering their eagerness to win endowment grants, it was also a reminder of how tight funding is for these critical programs.

My friend, poet Paul Muldoon, read some poetry to the attendees and reminded all, in his words, the NEA and the NEH are not properly funded. It is a national disgrace. Now, that was before the amendment that is here tonight that would cut the NEA even further.

The NEA and the NEH help ensure a well-rounded education, and result in a well-rounded society. Now, of course the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities are different, but they are similar in what they bring to our Nation.

The arts and humanities inspire our children to explore their own creativity and encourage positive development in the course of their educational careers. The arts and humanities are a fundamental component of our society and they, indeed, warrant Federal funding. The arts and humanities help us know ourselves as a people.

Just a few weeks ago, here on this floor, the House approved a bill that increased the spending for the Department of Defense by $17 billion. The total funding for the endowments is hardly more than a percent of that increase in defense spending that was passed. Talk about misplaced priorities.

I'm reminded of the often told exchange between Scientist Robert Wilson, the Director of Fermilab, when he was testifying before the Senate and Senator Pastore. The Senator asked, with regard to a science experiment at Fermilab, whether it would help defend this country against the Soviet Union. Replied Dr. Wilson, no, Senator Pastore, this will not help defend us against the Soviet Union, but it will help make our country more worth defending.

This amendment is based on the premise that arts and humanities are a luxury. The author of this amendment to cut the NEA further says America is impoverished. Mr. Chairman, I'll tell you what would leave America really impoverished is if we strangle the arts and humanities.

We've heard what the arts contribute to our economy. The Americans for the Arts, in its report, Arts and Economic Prosperity, details that the arts support more than 5 million jobs and generate tens of billions of dollars in government revenue.

Arts are good for our cultural development, yes. They are good for our society at large and good for our economic development as well.

I've heard from a number of my constituents on this matter, and nearly everyone has pleaded with me to preserve as much funding as possible for the arts and for the humanities. As one of them said poignantly, "A Nation without culture is a Nation without a soul.''

I strongly oppose this amendment and other efforts to strangle the arts and humanities in America and to defund the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

I yield back the balance of my time.