Humanities on the Hill 2017

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Guest Blog by Crissy Nettles

Last week I was lucky enough to travel with AHF Executive Director Armand DeKeyser to Humanities on the Hill, a 3-day whirlwind of sharing ideas with staff and board members from other humanities councils and face-to-face meetings with our Congressional representatives and their staffs. We brought maps and graphics showing which AHF programs appear in every one of Alabama’s 67 counties in 2016 and highlighted programs that directly affect their districts. We explained how SUPER teachers present the lesson plans they develop during their workshops to each other before they polish them up for their students, how PrimeTime families have bonded and continued to meet, and how local libraries, museums, and community groups provide resources that stretch our small grants 5 times farther than our dollars alone would go. We promoted our bicentennial collaboration with the Alabama Department of Archives and History. We implored them to preserve funding for the arts and humanities, especially in Alabama, where many small treasures in our state would cease to exist without federal funds. Private donors are few and far between in the impoverished areas many of our elected officials represent. 

We in the humanities so often feel compelled to remind lawmakers and critics that the study of what makes us human does not belong to an elite few, but to all in a democracy. In turn, let us not assume that legislators who are known for fiscal restraint are not friends of the humanities. I found our representatives well-read and well-informed about humanities happenings in their hometowns (thanks to Armand and our staff), and their young staffers were full of enthusiasm and pride. I was full of enthusiasm and pride, too, surrounded by Sylacauga marble and reveling in the history and architecture of the Smithsonian nearby, free to all who wish to enter. 

This week, President Trump released a proposed budget that suggested eliminating discretionary funds for the NEH and NEA. His budget director Mick Mulvaney asked, “Can we really ask a coal miner in West Virginia or a single mom in Detroit to pay for these programs?” How uninformed about the humanities Mick Mulvaney must be to assume a coal miner and a single parent would rather pocket the 46 cents that NEH costs an individual than to learn about the history of coal mining or to have free access to PrimeTime. 

Also this week, one of those Congressmen who Armand scheduled a meeting with asked to be added to the humanities caucus. Our visit was valuable, but it was just our two voices. Congress typically makes changes to the President’s proposed budget. AHF supporters, be sure Congress hears your voices now.

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