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Public Statements

40th Anniversary of the National Foundation for the Arts and Humanities

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. KENNEDY. Mr. President, 40 years ago today, President Lyndon Johnson signed landmark legislation into law creating the Foundation on the Arts and Humanities. I was privileged to be one of the cosponsors of this measure, which created the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities and bring a new nationwide focus to the creative community across America in the fields of literature and history, the visual arts, and the performing arts.

Throughout these four decades, the Endowments have provided impressive leadership in enhancing the cultural life of the Nation. The budget for the two agencies is relatively small, but they have distributed Federal grants to a wide range of deserving educational and cultural organizations in communities in all parts of the country.

The best of our cultural heritage has broad appeal to peoples everywhere. The scholarship, the history, and the arts of America are admired around the world. Each generation of scholars and artists has much to share with the rest of the world, and with the generations to come as well. The important role of the Endowments is to support the museums, the galleries, and the theaters in our communities, and assist them in presenting these artistic achievements so that audiences, students and scholars can study them, and learn from them.

Down through the ages, the arts have inspired generations after generations with their beauty, tolerance and understanding. They enable individuals to reach beyond their own experience and know something of other peoples and other cultures. In this shrinking world, it is even more important to respect our neighbors, and build cultural bridges to reach out to one another in our shared world. The arts and humanities offer indispensable opportunities to achieve this important goal.

The Endowments help disseminate the creative work being done at the local level. In Massachusetts, we are privileged to have an extraordinary range of cultural institutions that document the story of our Commonwealth from its earliest days to the present. We are very proud of the cultural landmarks that tell of our history, so that future generations too will understand the challenges that faced the Pilgrim settlers in Plymouth, the struggle for independence that began in Boston Harbor and at Concord Bridge, the harrowing era of one stop on the Underground Railroad, the rugged life in the fishing community of New Bedford, and the early years of the China trade.

So, too, in every other State in our Nation, the story is told of discovery, development and achievement, the continuing story of the American journey.

The important task of the Endowments is to honor and preserve this legacy. Over the past four decades, they have compiled an impressive record of vital support for both the arts and humanities. The Arts Endowment has funded major arts exhibitions, dance tours by large national companies, and performances by smaller regional companies. The Humanities Endowment has provided vital research and educational support in colleges and universities across the country. It has supported a national effort to preserve important documents, brittle books and important artifacts. Its public programs have underwritten brilliant documentaries on topics ranging from the story of the Civil War to the story of baseball.

These two great Endowments have amply fulfilled the early hope that they could improve the quality of the arts and humanities and expand their reach, and we in Congress are very proud of all they have accomplished.

There have been times of controversy and criticism as well, but the Endowments have clearly earned the bipartisan respect and support that they now enjoy. The arts and humanities are an essential part in the life of the Nation and in all of our lives, and the Endowment's mission is to ensure that they always will be.

I commend the current chairmen of the Humanities Endowment and the Arts Endowment, Bruce Cole and Dana Gioia. They follow in impressive footsteps of their illustrious predecessors, through Republican and Democratic administrations alike. We are grateful for all that they and their outstanding staff members do each day to fulfill their important mission.

It is gratifying on this 40th anniversary of the creation of the National Foundation on the Arts and Humanities to recognize their superb record of achievement, and I congratulate all those who have done so much to make it so.

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