“And the beat goes on........................”
Some Gossip for you this morning: My sources tell me the White House is getting close to naming a new Chair of the NEA. There are three names being bandied about - all of whom come from our field. Of course, the final selection may be outside that group and someone from left field. I can tell you the three names told to me (in confidence) are all very qualified and distinguished leaders from within our ranks.
Former President George W. Bush was back in the news last week at the opening of his Presidential Library. He was joined on stage by former Presidents Jimmy Carter, George Bush Sr., Bill Clinton and current President Barack Obama. This is a very exclusive club. Former presidents must find a life after the White House - a way to find personal satisfaction and fulfillment after leaving the post as the most powerful man in the world. Not an easy task. Clinton has his international foundation; Carter Habitat for Humanity. Usually, it takes a former President a while to find a new calling - an arena in which he can give back to the nation he once led in a way that gives him a sense of accomplishment and purpose. Protocol dictates they eschew the spotlight so as to give a current President space to govern. Often, they maintain a low profile for the first term of a new President, and have chosen a path to take right about the time their “library” is dedicated.
What interested me about former President Bush was not the news of the dedication of the ‘library’, but another news item about him reported by Rick Klein on ABC News from an interview President Bush did with Diane Sawyer of ABC News wherein he discussed his new passion for painting.
President Bush told Sawyer: “I love to paint. It is - painting has changed my life in an unbelievably positive way.”
“Bush said he was inspired to paint by reading Winston Churchill’s “Painting as a Pastime”. He told Sawyer that "his new activity has helped him continue to learn, following the example of his father, former President George H.W. Bush.”
“You know what the interesting lesson is though, that you can keep learning in life. ‘Painting', Bush said, ‘has been eye opening for me. I mean, I look at colors differently and I see shadow. “
Congratulations, Mr. President. You now personally know what tens of tens of thousands of artists know. The great joy and fulfillment of creativity; how art can keep lifelong learning alive. What you feel is what hundreds of thousands of children across the country feel when they have the opportunity to study, learn and practice art - whether painting, dance, music, film, literature, design, or whatever. For those children that opportunity profoundly (and positively) changes their lives - forever. You now know first hand the importance of art - to an individual and to our society, to our daily lives, to our communities, to all of us as a nation. I am profoundly happy for you.
Now, if I might ask you for a favor. Former President’s have tremendous cachet in our society. There aren’t very many of them alive at any one point in time. You have an unrivaled network of contacts and people you know throughout the political, business, civic and other worlds. You can command the media’s attention. People will listen to you. You speak with a rare authority. As a former President you can talk to the nation in a way few other people can. You have a big soap box and one extraordinary bully pulpit. And you know far better than most how the system works, and how to get things done. You have an unprecedented opportunity to do a lot of good.
So please, as you find your way towards new pursuits, I urge you to take up the banner of the arts in America. Take a stand in favor of public and private support for the arts - at every level - of supporting artists across our country, of arts education for all students in every community, of access to the work of the nation's artists for all people. Hold a press conference. Writer an OpEd piece for the New York Times or the Dallas News. Call your powerful friends - especially those in Congress - and all those who supported you and still hold you in high esteem; call the leaders of your party out publicly, and all your political contacts and friends and lobby hard for the arts and the value they give to all citizens and all communities. Chair a Summit Meeting of artists and power brokers. You know how to do this; how to make things happen. Help to make your new passion America’s new passion. Champion what has now given you a new way of living, for all those other Americans who don't have the same opportunities you do. You know now how important the arts can be to one man - and I think you now can appreciate how that importance multiplied by millions of people can be of great value to our nation. You can bring the arts to countless people who might not ever enjoy and benefit from the experience you now cherish, simply by lending your voice front and center to a national plea to understand why the arts matter and why we ought to rally to their support on every available level.
We're not just talking about a realistic budget for the National Endowment of the Arts - though it is certainly time America as a nation recognized the value of an investment in art, artists, and creativity. We are talking about a fundamental change in the attitude of America towards art and artists - finally recognizing that creativity and artistic pursuits are more than a luxury, more than a frill; rather art and artists are essential to who we are as a nation and how we will fare in the coming decades.
We can help you Mr. President - arm you with facts and data and stories that attest to and confirm the value of the arts - convincing evidentiary materials from the biggest metropolises to the tiniest hamlets all across our country - that will back substantially any effort you might mount to make the country understand just how important the arts are. I can put you in touch with scores of leaders (in the arts, business, academia and beyond) across the country that will rally to your attempt to be one of the arts spokespeople.
You’re an artist Mr. Bush - a noble and sacred calling. Please share that with America. Please step up and lead the charge to make the value of being an artist a priority for the country. There are fewer more noble endeavors you can pursue in your search for something worth while to do in your retirement, and fewer callings that will yield more benefit to our citizenry. And still fewer people better positioned to help than you. We need your help.
Thank you sir. Thank you very much.
Have a great week.