Most of you know NJCH as a funder and a provider of public humanities programming, but in addition to those roles, one of our primary purposes is to be ambassadors and advocates for the humanities, and we’ve hit the road recently to do that work!
Our first trip was to Washington, DC, as a part of Congress’s very own version of March Madness. For those of you who have not made the spring rounds of Congressional offices, everyone with a cause—from more gym class in schools, to support for convenience stores, to veteran’s services—makes their way to Washington in March to argue for Congressional appropriations. The day that we were there, the security lines were long and the weather was cold. Angela Speakman (Director of Development and Communications), Mike Klein (NJCH board member), and I hustled between the four buildings that hold New Jersey’s fourteen representatives and spoke to Congresspeople and their staff members about the value of the humanities, civic discourse, and participation in New Jersey’s communities. We are lucky; our state is full of lawmakers who believe in the power of the humanities, some of whom have been real national leaders in advocating for humanities funding and have their own very personal interests in history, literature, and culture. Still, the work we did felt meaningful, and all the more so in the weeks that followed.
The week after we returned to Trenton, the president released his budget. Once again, it proposed closing down the National Endowment for the Humanities. Representative Chris Smith had kindly anticipated this and addressed it when we were in his office, reminding me that presidential budgets never determine the spending priorities of Congress. In the weeks that followed, senators and representatives, including almost all of our members of Congress from the state of New Jersey, signed a letter to their colleagues on the Appropriations Committees in the House and Senate, asking them to support more funding for the NEH. But it is clear that the job of advocating for the humanities, and in fact the work of reminding our federal government of the needs of the people whom it serves, is ongoing, important work.
It was moving to be a part of that work, and I encourage all of you who feel so moved to get involved!
Pictured above: On left, Congressman Chris Smith and on right, Executive Director Carin Berkowitz, Ph.D.