April 17, 2013

CONGRESSWOMAN ROSA DELAURO SPEAKS OUT FOR THE ARTS

On April 9th,  the Honorable Rosa DeLauro spoke at Arts Advocacy Day in Washington DC, sponsored by Americans for the Arts.

Here are her remarks:

Thank you, and good morning. I am so pleased to be here, and to see such an enthusiastic crowd ready to make their voices heard on Capitol Hill.

Let me thank everyone at Americans for the Arts for all you do to support the arts and culture that enrich our nation.

And thank you to all the exceptional artists and entertainers who are giving their time and talent. Matt Sorum, Yo-Yo-Ma, Lil Buck.

Let me welcome all of the advocates for the arts who are here today to show your support. You are critical to this effort, and we are grateful.

What you are doing is so important. In the words of one of my heroes, former Congresswoman Barbara Jordan, “The arts are not a frill. The arts are a response to our individuality and our nature, and help to shape our identity.”

“Art has the potential to unify,” she said. “It can speak in many languages without a translator. The arts do not discriminate. The arts can lift us up.” And they do – they make our spirits soar.

Let me tell you, as a member of Congress: You should never underestimate the difference an Advocacy Day like this can make. Having smart, passionate, knowledgeable men and women show up at your office, and gently but astutely explain the benefits of NEA funding, it makes a difference. So do not take no for answer!

Arts funding helps to bring the beauty and creative genius of our culture to the lives of all Americans – young and old, rich and poor, urban and rural. This is about our humanity, and it is a goal worthy of our support.

Many years ago, I chaired the Greater New Haven Connecticut Arts Council. I know firsthand that the arts enrich lives – and they contribute to the economic growth of the community.

Every day, more than 100,000 nonprofit arts and culture organizations act as economic drivers – creating an industry that supports jobs, generates government revenue, and is the cornerstone of our tourism industry.

Our small federal contribution to the NEA – $146 million in the recent budget resolution – is only a tiny percentage of the overall public-private investment flowing to the non-profit arts every year. I know Louise Slaughter is working to increase that number.

But these are some of the most important dollars – the ones that leverage billions of dollars in state, local and private funding, and help to fuel what is a vital non-profit arts industry.

I am always proud to support the NEA, and I will work hard to see that it receives the funding it needs.

You need to help us persuade some of our colleagues, who do not believe that the federal government should contribute to the arts.

Already the sequester, the deep and indiscriminate automatic cuts that were recently enacted, have cut the NEA funding by $7.3 million.

And as in previous years, the Majority’s budget, drafted by Paul Ryan and passed by the House last week, eliminates NEA funding entirely. They call it a handout to the rich.

In his budget proposal, Chairman Ryan said support for the arts and humanities “can no longer be justified.” Because, as he put it, “these agencies go beyond the core mission of the federal government, and they are generally enjoyed by people of higher-income levels, making them a wealth transfer from poorer to wealthier citizens.” Saying that culture is only for the rich describes a country without a soul.

Contrary to what you may hear from many of my colleagues, the arts are not just for the privileged few. Countless studies have shown that the arts have real value in fostering civility, decency, and compassion in our society. They provide our children and communities real alternatives to help close the education achievement gap, lift grade point averages, and lower dropout rates. They enrich the lives and cultivate the talent of America’s young minds.

We cannot let the NEA disappear. The loss would be irreplaceable. As President John F. Kennedy said, “This country cannot afford to be materially rich and spiritually poor.”

That’s why Kennedy pushed for an America that “will steadily raise the standards of artistic accomplishment and which will steadily enlarge cultural opportunities for all of our citizens.”
Because, he said, “after the dust of centuries has passed over our cities, we…will be remembered not for victories or defeats in battle or in politics, but for our contribution to the human spirit.”

So I am glad to see so many here. There is nothing more powerful than hearing directly from the people you represent.  Suddenly the issue takes on a whole new importance. An actual movement, rising from the ground up among voters in our district: You are very difficult to ignore.

Do not take no for an answer! Let’s fight today to support our artists, actors, dancers, writers, and musicians, and to make sure we continue to be a nation that respects and supports and embraces the arts.

Thank you for your contributions to the human spirit.

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