Excerpts from First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton's remarks to
the President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities
February 25, 1997
...These rich expressions of creativity are no less than the expressions of our great democracy. For over 200 years, the freedom that is at the heart of our democratic system has unleashed the spirit of Creative America. It has spurred us to say and write and draw what we think, feel and dream. It has inspired us to celebrate through dance, in songs, in paint and on paper the story of America -- of who we are, where we have been, and what we hope to be. And through all of these activities encompassed by the arts and humanities, our democracy, in turn, is nurtured, strengthened, made more resilient.
And as we prepare for a new century -- and a new millennium -- the arts and humanities are more essential than ever to the endurance of our democratic values of tolerance, pluralism and freedom. At a time when so much is happening to change the way we work and live, the way we relate to one another and the way we relate to the rest of the world, we cannot fully understand the past, nor envision the future we need to pursue without the arts and humanities.
That is why we must do everything we can to strengthen our support for the arts and humanities in the coming years. The President and I are very excited about the Millennium Initiative described in this report. The approach of a new millennium and a new century presents us with a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the past two centuries of our collective American journey, to raise awareness about the importance of the arts and humanities in our lives, and to examine the ideas, values and experiences that can shape our future... When we look back at the past 1,000 years and try to understand the defining events, ideas, and movements of past civilizations, of what it was like to live in a certain age, we often rely on the paintings, sculptures, books and other writings created by the men and women of those times.
So it is imperative for all of us living at the end of the twentieth century to encourage the creation and preservation of works that will serve as our own unique legacy for future generations. The President is eager to lead this initiative and will call upon all citizens, local communities, state governments, federal agencies and private sector partners to create Millennium programs that reflect and celebrate our cultural heritage. As we have over the past four years with performances, new art acquisitions, and rotating sculpture exhibits, the President and I will continue to showcase outstanding examples of American art and scholarship at the White House.
We must encourage communities to identify and preserve their local traditions, history and folk creations. We must inspire the commercial and non-profit organizations that produce or own much of our cultural material to take steps to preserve their holdings. And we can support efforts to ensure that America's cultural resources are made more widely available on the Internet -- so that a child growing up in some of our most isolated communities can take a virtual tour of our finest museums and libraries. As this report has noted, the arts and humanities in America depend on a dynamic network of support that is very unique to our country. The arts and humanities depend on partnerships between government agencies, private foundations, corporations, non-profit organizations and individual benefactors to nurture talent and bring the creative achievements of our best artists and artisans to as wide an audience as possible. The arts and humanities could never thrive, much less survive, on support from just one of these sources. That is why all of us must do our part and work to renew America's philanthropic spirit.
And government must take a leadership role in making sure that all Americans have opportunities to develop their own talents and take part in the artistic and intellectual life of our nation. For children, especially those living in some of our most depressed neighborhoods, federal, state and local support of the arts and humanities, as well as the strengthening of arts and humanities programs in our schools, are critical. For these children, exposure to the world of arts and ideas can literally mean the difference between the lives of accomplishment and lives of hopelessness and failure. As the President's committee showed last Spring in another report called "Coming Up Taller," arts and humanities education can offer children safe and productive alt ernatives to crime, violence, gangs, and drugs, transporting them beyond the bounds of their difficult circumstances...
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