I'm extremely grateful to Mr. Blanton and those who've invited me to come down and be with you this afternoon. I know I don't sound like a New Yorker. As a matter of fact, when I was first elected to Congress from Rochester, New York in 1986 and was introduced to Speaker Wright, he said to me, "It's about time that New York sent a member down here with no accent." I love Texas. I met my husband in San Antonio. And I came down with Speaker Wright in about 1988, and we sang a stirring rendition of "Just a Closer Walk with Thee" in Ft. Worth. Probably hasn't been the same over there since. I've learned all kinds of wonderful things from Jake Pickle and Jack Brooks, and we sang gospel songs together up and down the halls of Congress. But we had very little effect, I might add, on the content of what went on there. And Governor Ann Richards just wrote me a lovely note, telling me how marvelous all of you are. I believe that philosophical Texans are the best people in the world to spend some time with.
I am extremely grateful to Dr. Harris for his presentation this morning, telling us how awful it was for my predecessors, because I sort of had a feeling that the siege that we are under now is unique. But obviously, from the beginning of time, people have been trying to read things into art that they thought made it unacceptable and downright un-American.
I also want to thank Richard Hughes, because he had an enormous impact on us this last year with the wonderful writing that he did, which we were able to quote all over the place and made it easier for us to try to save the two national endowments. He said that everybody talks about art because it makes you feel good. And I was sort of writing that, had that sort of speech here, and I do want to talk about some of that because at least it would give you the idea of how we have had to frame the debate in Congress to be able to save the endowment.
I first joined the Arts Caucus when I got to Washington because it was just a wonderful thing to do, and they had great lunches. There was absolutely no sign on the horizon anywhere that the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) was going to be in trouble, until the Reverend Wileman of Tupelo, Mississippi, following the Serrano piece, set out to destroy it. Now, I've got my own private theory about this and I want to discuss this with you. The Reverend Wileman found this to be lucrative enough that he could afford full-page ads in every major newspaper in the United States. And every time he sent out his pornography, he always, had a coupon attached, saying to the citizens of the country: "If you will send me some money, I'll stamp out this evil." Now, the reason that I think that the fight against the NEA had a lot to do with making money is because, as I am sure all of you have noticed, the same battle has never gone on around the Endowment for the Humanities, even though we fund them at the same time. It's a little harder to send out direct mail saying, "Did you hear what they said in the national conversation over there at the museum last week?" That's not going to arouse people like sending some kind of picture out, the way the Reverend Wileman did. And it has gotten to the stage that it had a pernicious effect, I think, on Congress.
But I think that the NEA was not the only thing affected by that kind of attack. For example, during the healthcare debate - all of you remember Harry and Louise - unscrupulous mail-order people sent out huge official-looking documents to senior citizens throughout the country, telling them that if they went to the wrong doctor, it would cost them $10,000. Second, they would go to prison, and, third, if you would send in a little money with this coupon, we can keep the government out of your healthcare. You would be astonished to know the number of senior citizens in the United States who do not understand that Medicare is government healthcare and sent money to these people so they could keep the government out of it.
We have talked about having a civil discourse in the country. I don't know if we can. Once this sort of talk gets started, once they get out there, and language is taken over, we are defined by other people in the way they want to define us. It's been very difficult, if not impossible, to try to have a civil discourse about it, even to present two sides of the issue. This makes me think, in many ways, about the Wizard of Oz phenomenon. If you remember the end, when they finally get down the yellow brick road, suddenly there are all these bells and whistles and all these things go off, and we are told to pay no attention to that man behind the curtain. And in some ways that is not too farfetched a scenario for what has been going on in the country today. We're not paying that much attention to the people behind the curtain, but the bells and whistles of some of this debate has occupied us far too much.
Now, in the 1994 revolution - there was a cultural revolution in the United States - one of the goals was to destroy the NEA. Why? We've never really had much of a good answer for that question. Could they destroy the NEA, if they wanted to? Yes. But somehow it never happens. I don't know if this is a bells and whistles kind of thing again or not, or if this is another way that obviously the Reverend Wileman continues to raise his money. I try to have respect for my colleagues, who came to Congress with the idea that the NEA was an evil that needed to be done away with; many of them are sincere in that belief and think that that is exactly what their constituents want.
Now, the history of the arts in the United States, I think, is pretty varied. We need to realize again that the Preamble to the Constitution calls for the Federal Government to promote the general welfare, and the arts are essential in promoting the general welfare because they inspire creativity. They encourage expression and thought, bring joy to countless individuals, and improve the quality of life. A historic record exists of government partnerships with the arts that have been mutually beneficial. We heard this morning about the great things done during the New Deal, but government seed monies have always funded the great art. Michaelangelo's David was commissioned by the City/State of Florence. The United States, very early in our history, had some involvement in Arts. For example, 1800, the first national cultural institution, the Library of Congress, was established, based on Thomas Jefferson's personal library. And, during the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln decided that the second dome of the Capitol - as you know, it is a dome within a dome - that the beautiful, artistic second dome of that Capitol would be finished and worked on during those darkest days, because he wanted to say that he had faith that the Republic would stand united. And that was a good symbol. In 1916, one of the most important things that we did was to allow a tax deduction for contributions to the educational, cultural and social services, and in 1933, as we heard this morning, the Arts were used to combat unemployment in some pretty hard times.
Russell Lee, one of the New Deal photographers employed by the Farm Security Administration, said, "I'm a photographer hired by a democratic government to take pictures of its land and its people. The idea is to show New York to Texas and Texas to New York." Another artist said, Peter Blume, said, "We, as artists, must take our place in this crisis on the side of growth and civilization against barbarism and reaction, and help to create a better social order." He recognized the role of Arts in the civil society, but it took three decades before we finally made a permanent commitment in the United State to NEA. And it was a son of Texas-President Lyndon B. Johnson-who, in 1965, signed Public Law 89209 and established the National Endowment for the Arts and the Humanities. And that law states that, "While no government can call a great artist or scholar into existence, it is necessary and appropriate for the Federal Government to help to create and sustain, not only a climate to encourage freedom of thought and imagination and inquiry, but also the material conditions facilitating the release of this creative talent." And not only did President Johnson recognize that, but also, in no small way, Mrs. Johnson contributed to the beautifying of America, which has made a great difference to us all. It is such a treat for me to get to see her today.
The Congressional Arts Caucus was organized early in the 1980s, shortly after President Reagan was elected, when one of the first things he wanted to do was to zero out the NEA. The caucus was begun on a bipartisan, bicameral basis and its sole purpose, its only purpose, was to continue the funding for the two endowments. And it's worked very well. As I said, we really thought we were in the clover there. We were doing pretty well. We didn't spend a heck of a lot of money. I think when I first got there, $170 million was the amount of money we spent on the Endowment for the Arts. We were spending almost twice that on military bands that mostly only played in Washington. We were able to take part of our official expense money and pool it, all of us who were members of that caucus, and then we were able to hire staff persons to do research, to help us contact each other, to get us ready for the debate. That's all we did. There was nothing ominous about it, nothing awful; nor was it a great expense on the Federal Government. But we did set up, as Peter Marzio mentioned, the Congressional Member Organization for the Arts, which we operate with no staff at all, not even Xerox paper. This exists only in the House, and we have many fewer members than we had in the Arts Caucus. Our numbers dropped, and some of the letters were really very sad: "I have always been a member of this caucus; however, I find that the climate of the country today ... I don't want to do it, I should not do it, and I'm afraid I'm going to have to leave." And we got together, really discussing what will we do about this onslaught against the Arts and what can we do to try to solve our problems for our colleagues, so that we can get enough votes to try to keep it alive.
Here I need to say a couple of things about the members of Congress. The onslaught against art really came from lots of people who have one great thing in common - they vote. And members of Congress know that. Second, we all know that it is almost impossible, once the language and the conversation have been established, we are redefined, once the 30-second ad comes out in your district saying that you believe in pornography and that you want to destroy the lives of all the children in America-once that happens, it is very difficult, if not impossible, either to raise the money, or to be able to answer that in 30 seconds. And so, a lot of people simply took the easy way out and dropped out of the debate.
So, I've had the great joy in the last five years-honestly, I wouldn't trade places with anybody-to be able to lead this debate. Government has sort of become a spectator's sport, and I almost feel like we're at an Olympic event, where people will hold up numbers to tell us how we did that day. And we had a very difficult time trying to get outside groups to join in on the debate. Back in our districts, we talked to the schools and all the institutions that had benefited from the NEA. We said, "Would you come out and say something, a letter to the newspaper, a little something here? Please, help us." I remember hearing an artist at one of these meetings. He said, "What's the matter with them? They get elected and they're sent down here to do the right thing, and they simply don't have the guts to do it." Well, he is right. But at the same time, we very much needed to get the public discussion going on NEA and how important it was. So, one of the nicest things that happened this past year is that we were able to accomplish that. Richard Hughes, and all the wonderful writing that he did for Time in the special edition that they put out, was magnificent. Michael Jordan, who is the CEO of Westinghouse and, consequently, CBS, did ten spots in the fall before the vote, saying how important the arts are, economically and every other way, to the growth and to the future of the United States. Borders Bookstore put on a concerted effort, and put their own spots on television, starring Paul Newman. And we all listen to him. Right? I mean, who's going to pay any attention to me, but if Paul Newman says the Arts are a good thing, who's going to question it?
We concluded that what we needed to do was to prove the economic value of the arts to the public. I am not going to tell you that this is the best way to go. I would like it if we could be as pure about all this, but we can't. We know that there are two compelling reasons to save anything in the United States. The first is economic value. That's got to be there- if it isn't, then basically, in the country today, it has very little value. Second, is value for education. And, boy, did we have the ammunition there.
Now, I would like to share some of the things with you that we talked about during the debate, and then a little bit, if I may, about the arcane way in which we have to do it-the committee system, how we have to proceed, try to buttonhole our colleagues, hold them by the tie and cajole-how we have to do everything. I used to have people over to my office to eat baked grits. It got me a lot of votes.
One of the things that we talked about was what art does for troubled children. Before it disbanded, we took the Arts Caucus to New York to see a little school on the Lower East Side. It was the school where the Gershwen Brothers, and Paul Muni [sp?] and Edward G. Robinson had all been students. The second language in that school today is Bengali. We observed a second grade class. They were sculpting heads. I was absolutely astonished at the intricate work that they were doing. Children who couldn't speak to each other were working on this model. The only thing they had in common was creating this art. Their reading scores, they tell me, as soon as they can teach these children English, go through the roof. You could sense the pride in that school. Parents came and stood outside that school every day and kept guard over it, in case drug pushers, or pimps, or any other unsavory characters wanted to get near that school. They were not going to get by those parents. They walked the halls and made sure that those children were safe. It was astonishing.
On that same trip, we went to an NEA-funded program for children. Each child had to come to school on a Saturday morning with at least one parent. I remember standing by a little boy, about five years old, who was making a collage. To everybody's shock, and certainly to mine, he started to cry. He said to the boy next to him, a perfect stranger, "Did I ever tell you that my brother was shot and killed?" A psychologist would tell you that as he was busy with his hands, he was able to let his emotions out. That was the beginning of healing for him. I wonder what would have happened if the boy who did the shooting in Kentucky, perhaps, had had that opportunity. When we see these young people, sixteen, eighteen years old, who are arrested for awful crimes, with blank stares, I wonder if it's not possible that they have not had the opportunity to let those emotions out and to begin to heal. If art can do that, it's cheap at the price.
Plato said, "I would teach children music, physics and philosophy, but most importantly, music, for in the patterns of music and all the arts are the keys to learning." If we really thought he knew what he was talking about, we would be way ahead of it. That would be wonderful etched over a music school, the idea that music would be the very thing because of the patterns that it teaches. The theory now has become reality because with the new imaging science, the CAT scans and all the things that we now understand about the developing brain, we know precisely what part of the brain is stimulated by what certain thing, and what happens to that child and that brain. And we are now determined that the birthright of every child will be the ability to create and to understand. We're going to start singing to them, even before they're born. The New York Times, I think, stated it succinctly: When that child is born, that brain is covered over with avenues and connections that sit there and wait for further instruction. And if we don't complete that instruction, that child never becomes all that it can be. I know children that create don't destroy. I've seen it happen over and over again, and it gives them a good sense of self-esteem. When a child looks at a canvas and says, "What colors make this more beautiful?" they learn that if they don't like the picture the first time, they can start over again on a clean canvas. That's not a bad thing to learn. You think about things in a different context, how to be flexible, and how to persevere. And the arts also encouraged teamwork. One person alone cannot create harmony. It takes a choir to learn that each voice has an important role to play in making the sound beautiful.
Through creativity, and critical thinking, and teamwork and cooperation, arts studies increase the academic achievement. And let me tell you that, although people, at first, were very skeptical about this, it's been proven time and time again. The connection between art and learning makes sense on the theoretical level. Numerous studies have demonstrated it on an empirical level, as well. We have found that - and the University of California at Irvine did the study-music training, specifically piano instruction, is superior to computer instruction in dramatically enhancing a child's abstract reasoning skills that are necessary for learning math and science. A two-year experiment with preschoolers indicated that music uniquely enhanced their higher brain functions required for mathematics, chess, science and engineering, and the study emphasizes the causal relationship between early music training and the development of the neural circuitry that governs spatial intelligence. Now that, again, if we can do that for every child in America, we're going to be a whole lot more ready to go into the next century.
Now-and this is an example that I absolutely love to use on even the most philistine among us in the House-according to the College Board, students with four years of art scored 59 points higher on their verbal and 44 points higher on their math scores on the SATs. Again, isn't that cheap at the price?
Now, we believe that the arts also increase discipline. They teach self-discipline, self control. I have got all kinds of other material here, but I think it's better if I move on and talk to you about Congress, because you probably know all of this anyway.
What we have seen in the last three or four years in Congress is that the debate has gotten much more vicious. I think that we have, perhaps, turned a corner. I think we sort of bottomed out and that the new research we have on the developing child and the economic benefits of the arts are really going to help us out. For example, did you know that art training helps a person become a better doctor? Recent studies show that many doctors failed the stethoscope test, but that the doctors who had studied music had greater diagnostic abilities in using stethoscopes than doctors without music training. So the next time you go to the doctor, ask him to sing "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" before you let him examine you.
What we have had to do is to frame the debate in terms of what the arts will do for our children, and we have lots of research statistics suggesting that the arts may be among the most important things that we can give to a child and to a human being.
But what about the economy? It does pretty well too under the arts. And how about our investment in art? We only give the NEA budget-less than one hundredth of one percent of the whole Federal budget goes to the arts. Now, that's substantially less than we spend on a B-2 bomber. But that small percentage of the Federal budget brings back $3.4 billion into the Federal Treasury. And I can tell you that I know of no other investment made by this Federal Government that brings back that kind of return monetarily, never mind the other things that we've been talking about. But in addition, through cultural tourism and community investment, money and success are brought to communities throughout the nation. Now, according to studies conducted by Americans for the Arts, the arts support 1.3 million jobs and the non-profit Art industry generates $36.8 billion annually in economic activity. Art doesn't have to apologize to anyone. The Americans for the Arts also concluded that the Arts produce $1.2 billion in state government revenue and $790 million in local government revenue. One of the persons from the National Association of Counties told us that the Arts are like seeds planted in the community. With minimal attention the seeds will grow, but with nurturing they will grow and bear fruit for generations to come. And we have a lot of examples. You have one right here in Houston. The Project Row House, which was developed from public housing that the city was going to shut down. Houston's African-American artists, who wanted to establish a positive, creative presence in the Black community, worked with the city to create this public art project. It's located in the Third Ward and involves artists and neighborhood revitalization and historic preservation, community service and youth education. And the Row houses in the development are dedicated to art, photography and to literary projects installed on a rotating six-month basis. There's also a young mother's residential program, which provides transitional housing and services for young mothers and their children. Now, Houston's Third Ward is a thriving cultural center, thanks to the work of the artists and the volunteers, as well as the contributions of Houston's corporations, foundations and art organizations. I recently met with LupÈ Casillas Lowenburg of El Paso, who talked about a new center that they're going to be building in El Paso very much like what is happening here in Houston. They want to develop the Lower Valley as an inviting economic corridor. And from the examples of other places, they know that art can help them to do that. In Abilene the Cultural Affairs Council has developed a downtown cultural district that has facilitated the renovation of downtown cultural facilities and persuaded art museums to move into the district. In Peakskill, New York, a village that was totally dead-artists from New York City moved up to Peakskill and help rejuvenate it. I remember a sculptor who took over the theater because of the high ceilings. It was perfect for him. That is now a thriving community. We have similar examples all over the country, which came really just from such seed money, in many cases, from the NEA.
Mayor Betty Jo Rae of Rockhill, South Carolina recently told a group that her city lost all but one of its textile mills. They were left with an unemployment rate of 17.2%. With the help from NEA seed money, the arts became the major source of revitalization in Rockhill, and a new Arts Council Center downtown is the key to economic development, providing spiritual vibrancy. In 1973, downtown theaters in Cleveland were refurbished and Cleveland's downtown is once again resurging. One of the most important examples is Providence, Rhode Island, where they pushed through legislation to set aside one square mile of downtown Providence for an arts center. It is drawing people from throughout all of the Northeast and has become a thriving downtown again, which is something many of us worry about because we see downtowns struggling to grow and, in many cases, just to survive. So, that small investment that we make in the arts is important.
Now, there are five main arguments that our opponents make against the NEA. First, Washington should not decide which art is worthy of funding. And we don't. And we don't want to do that. I think it's terribly important that we not do that. What we do is give the money to the National Endowment of the Arts and, as you heard this morning, they have various panels that determine, on applications, which ones should be funded and which ones should not. I'm almost embarrassed to tell you that we've really tarted-up that process, though. And in this last vote, even though we were tickled to death to get it and we were able to let NEA survive, we couldn't get by without putting members of Congress on those panels as sensors. And I, frankly, think it's a conflict of interest and I want very much to stop it, but I don't know whether we're going to be able to do that.
The second argument is that the NEA refuses to clean up its act and can't be reformed. Well, the NEA has done reformed and over the years again, we have whittled away at it. Now we don't give any money to individual artists. This year we had to fight for the category of literature. They really wanted to do away with that, but we were able to save it for this year.
The arts will continue to thrive without the NEA. That's another of the arguments that we hear. A lot of people in the United States are not in this debate at all. And I will tell you, quite honestly, if you were to ask the vast majority of people in the country what NEA stands for, most of them would say, "The National Education Association," if they had any guess at all. They are not interested in it. Another debate that we often have is that art is elite. It is the province of the very rich. They should go ahead to their museums and have their own collections and leave the rest of us alone. The NEA has done more to dispel that notion than any other agency on Earth. What they do with their seed money.
Another of the arguments is that so much of the money goes to the major institutions in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Houston, and, yes, it does. The reason for that is that is where they are able to put together the travelling troupes and the groups that go out to every nook and cranny, from sea to shining sea, because the NEA's whole method of living is to make sure that we do not leave people behind in the country. Without it, believe me, that is exactly what will happen. You will not see the lines of people waiting in small town American to get in to see a performance. F. Murray Abraham told us a story once about a trip he had made into upstate New York, where, I'm sure you're heard, it snows from time to time. (It's snowing today and I'm just tickled to death that I'm not in it.) He arrived in the middle of an absolutel blizzard. Somehow the artists got through, but they didn't expect to see a human being there. But one man came and sat on the front row. The actors all talked in the backroom about, "What are we going to do?" And so, Mr. Abraham walked out and he said to him, "Well, nobody's here tonight but you, and it's a pretty awful night, and you probably want to leave." The man said, "No, I came to see the play." And so, they put it on for him. And Mr. Abraham said it was probably one of his greatest performances.
Mary Steenburgen talked about what NEA had meant to her as a child and what she had learned in school to help make her the actress she is. She said that when a group came through with "The Music Man" in her small town in Arkansas, her parents somehow saved enough money to buy tickets to take her to see it. And she said she knew that day that that's what she wanted to do with the rest of her life. And she told me that every time, before she goes out to do a performance, she reaches down to a little imaginary girl and says, "Maryella," because that's her name, "Let's go out there and do our best. There may be children here tonight." I tried to find some kind of catalog of how many famous people had gotten their start through NEA and high school programs. I didn't get much further than President Clinton, who told me he had learned the saxophone in the ninth grade, and could still tell me the name of his teacher.
Without the NEA, many of these arts programs simply would not survive. There's no question about it. Theaters in little places all over the country would go dark. We would not be able to find and nurture the talent that is out there and that is, really, the birthright of every American. Maybe you remember Peter mentioning the Scholastic Art Program. I don't know if you know about it, but in each Congressional district, if the schools want to, the students apply, do work that is submitted to be judged, with the best being chosen to hang in the Capitol of the United States. I had one young boy in my district whose work was selected to be hung in the Capitol. We wanted him to come down to see his painting hung with all the others, but we couldn't keep track of him. He was troubled and was from a particularly bad ward in Rochester. He kept dropping out of school, leaving home. But my office was wonderful about it. They tracked him down through three counties, finally got a hold of him and said, "You really should come to this." And he did. And we took really good care of him. We met him at the plane, and we saw to it that he was all right, that he got to see his painting, and we sent him home. I didn't hear another word from him for about a year. Then, one night we did a meeting on art and what it means to people, and in he walks with three of his friends. He had enrolled at the Pratt Institute. The fact that his painting was good enough to hang in the Capitol of the United States had given him enough self esteem to make the effort, to clean up his act and go ahead and develop the talent that he had.
The fifth argument that we hear is that Washington has to set priorities, the and NEA is a luxury we can't afford. I think it's not a luxury, it's a necessity for us. If you consider the amount of money that we spend on education and remedial work, then you know that these arts programs are important. I've been a great fan of Governor Deans of Vermont, who, I understand, is a pediatrician. I've never met him, but I know that one of the things that he has implemented is that every baby born in Vermont gets a visit by a Vermont state worker, who brings stimulation to this child that is applicable to its age. And this continues until that child goes to school. Governor Dean says it is the best money he spends, because he is going to save it in remedial education and in jails. And I think that he's absolutely right.
Just last week we learned that music enhances the immune system, that it is being used to great effect in children's cancer wards. And not only does it enhance their immune system, the nurses say that it makes it possible for the children to withstand some of the awful treatments that they have to go through, if music is being played, or if they are being able to try to help play some themselves. This is pretty wonderful.
Now, Washington does not decide, as I said a while ago, what art is worthy of funding, and be glad for that. But we do want to make sure that that the money that is spent reflects this nation's geography, and its ethnicity and its different points of view, which are also important. I don't know what's going to happen now with the members of Congress on this, but I'm not happy with that notion. We talked about whether or not people should be funding art that they don't believe in. Well, we fund a lot of things that I don't believe in. I'm not crazy about the B-2 bomber. I'm pretty sure we don't need a manned bomber for anything, and yet, every year we pass the Federal budget and the bombers are there, because there are more people in the House, who believe it in than those of us who don't, and that's what a democracy is. And that certainly applies to NEA and to the arts. We have to understand that this is a serious time.
I think if there's one point I really want to make, it's the way the debate goes on in Washington, because it's difficult to understand, and I know that it is, why members of Congress are so wooden-headed about this and why they don't understand. So, I want to reiterate, at least to some extent, what I think happens there. First, we only hear from one side. That's devastating to us, because every time you hear from someone in the public, particularly someone from your district, you translate it into 5,000 votes. So, if we're really going to be successful here in things that we want as we move into this next century, then we're going to have to make sure that we participate as well, and that members of Congress hear from us. I know that all of you do that. I know that you believe in that as well, but we've got to have a groundswell that I think we see it happening about the Arts that will make it possible for us to keep that debate going. But there are a number-I love the little arcane things that happen in Congress. For example, we have the two processes, the appropriations process and the authorization process. It's kind of arcane, but I need to just run through just a bit of this for you. If a bill is authorized, the money is 99% going to be appropriated. So, what happened to us in 1993 is that they stopped authorizing NEA. And that means that before we can go to the floor with the interior bill-and remember, we're debating the whole interior bill-before we can go to the floor with it, it has to go to the Rules Committee, where I'm lucky to sit. The ratio is nine to four, though, and we don't win much. But the Rules Committee has to protect each appropriation that is not authorized from a point of order. And the word went out this last time not to protect the NEA and one member raised the point of order, and we lost in the House by one vote. Fortunately for us, the Senate did save the NEA. But as I pointed out in the conference, a number of things were added to it that, every year, weakens it and makes it so different.
I served with two Chairs of the NEA, John Fromeyer and Jane Alexander, and it has not been a pretty sight. Jane Alexander came to Washington full of hope and promise, and feeling so good about it, and wanting to really do a wonderful job. And she ran into a buzzsaw. The woman was tortured. I don't know of any other way to put it to you. I saw her at hearings and some of the things that she went through. I'm sorry that she's gone, but I'm sure she feels that she served her time and that she should be put on parole. But we are in the process now of choosing a new person to head up the Endowment, and I hope that we can get some of the quality of those other two, who really were very strong fighters, who made sure that the agency lived.
If we eliminate the NEA, do you realize that we will be the only democratic free nation that doesn't invest in art? And that, as was pointed out earlier by Dr. Harris, doesn't say very much for us. So, while we are very much appreciative for the private funding, it is necessary, I think, that the Endowment live and that we make sure that it's strong and that it gives the opportunity to every child and every human being in the country.
One other thing-I wasn't sure that I wanted to talk to you about this, but I will-I need to talk to you about the Christian Coalition. They did something that was really interesting, the Reverend Wileman made a video that was sent out by the American Family Association, so that every member of Congress now has some pornography in the office. Then ... Actually, none of those movies on that tape were funded by the NEA, as has happened in many cases. So then next they set up, on the steps of the Capitol, a display of visual art that they thought was blasphemous or pornographic. And everybody who came to the Capitol-every child who visited, ever school class that came-marched by what the Reverend said was pornographic and that nobody should see it. Then, not satisfied with that, they put it on a web page. So, every family in America who has access to the web page has available to them the greatest collection of pornography that exists in the United States, and the NEA, on its best day, if it was trying to do it, couldn't come close to that. But one thing about it, at least, is if you take your child to a museum, you have some control over what they're seeing. When you look at the Internet, nobody knows.
We are living in an interesting time in the United States. The discussion this morning on whether or not we can have a civil dialogue-I think it is up for grabs. Most of us think that we still can, but I can tell you, from our point of view, once some group gets a hold of the argument, either to make money or to make some point, and defines that issue in a certain way that catches on with the public, there is really nothing we can do. We do not have either the resources or the ability to fight it. And it becomes a factoid. And you see that happening in the Congress. There are times when I think that we are marching resolutely into the nineteenth century instead of into the twenty-first. We're eager to give away hard-won battles. Changes are being made on a daily basis that I don't think people are really aware of. I know they're not, because when I talk about them at home, the comment always is, "I didn't know that. I didn't know that."
And so, we need somehow to recognize that, those of us who are true believers in discourse and dialogue and have respect for people who disagree with us but nonetheless want the opportunity to give our side, have a battle force that's almost unseen. It's so subtle that it's often very difficult to fight. Just recently, the Ford Foundation and several other foundations sponsored a conference in Washington that talked about the status of the U. S. Government today; specifically, I think they talked about the IRS. They said that numbers of really wonderful things had happened at the IRS, but there was no way on Earth for anybody to ever know about them, because that's not the way the dialogue was going, and that most of the things that the media mentioned were the excesses of the IRS, its inability to deal with people, the things that they had done that made taxpayers' livers miserable, and so forth. And David Broeder, the columnist, made it his business to go and talk to two former heads of the IRS, one Republican and one Democrat. They both told him, collectively, that the denigration of the American government had made it almost impossible for them to hire the caliber and quality of people that they wanted in the IRS. I see this as a dangerous trend, and I think that this notion again of separating people, to tell them that the government is their enemy instead of the government is us, is part of this whole debate that includes the NEA and the NEH.
You've been very patient with me and I thank you very much. It's a great honor to be here with you. I have enjoyed every minute of this. I wish I could talk to every one of you because I've already learned so much. But thank you for your extraordinary hospitality and the ability really just to be here and to join you in this today.