"I would like to salute all of the arts advocacy groups, non-profits, and performers here from my hometown of San Francisco.
"The great Leonardo da Vinci once said: "Art is the queen of all sciences -- communicating knowledge to all the generations of the world.'
"Recognizing the value of the arts as a tool to communicate truth, knowledge, and wisdom from generation to generation, Americans for the Arts has spent 50 years living up to da Vinci's call by: upholding our nation's commitment to artistic excellence; advancing the arts in local communities, in schools, and in the halls of Congress; recognizing that a strong investment in the arts is a critical investment in our economy, our prosperity, and our future.
"Our mayors understand their role in this legacy: working hand-in-hand with art directors in cities large and small; collaborating with Americans for the Arts, empowering local artists, and investing in local arts education initiatives; fighting -- alongside Chairwoman Louise Slaughter -- to expand NEA funding, even as opponents tried to reduce investment in the arts.
"It is a tribute to this commitment that the U.S. Conference of Mayors has participated in Americans for the Arts' annual conference for 20 years -- and will take part in the 50th anniversary celebration for the organization later this year.
"Across the country, we have seen the positive impact of the arts on our students and families; yet, in this time of economic hardship, we know that the arts community has taken a hit -- forced to shed jobs and lose critical donations from the private sector.
"That's why we fought so hard to include $50 million in funding for the NEA in the Recovery Act. These funds went directly to non-profit groups, state, local and regional arts agencies, with a focus on projects and initiatives that create and save jobs.
"That's why -- since Democrats assumed the majority of Congress in 2007 -- we have increased funding for the NEA each year. Responding to the call of the Congressional Arts Caucus, we will work to continue down that path this year.
"That's why we will remain dedicated to investments in arts education and to arts initiatives in our schools.
"For half-a-century, Americans for the Arts has stood as the tie that binds together generations of leaders committed to the arts.
"Together with the U.S. Conference of Mayors and all of the advocates here today, you are ensuring that the arts remain a priority at every level of government.
"And it is a true honor to be recognized among the ranks of these leaders with the Congressional Arts Leadership Award.
"Thank you for your support and for your ongoing work to bring the voices of America's artists to the chambers of Capitol Hill."