Our great lack today is not sources of subsidy or an honest desire to promote the arts, but a program for reaching the goals we all seek. This is particularly true at the level of the Federal Government.
Recognizing this missing element, President Eisenhower in his 1955 state of the Union message recommended that the Congress pass legislation establishing a National Advisory Council on the Arts to determine what our national program should be.
Although the Congress has never completed action on this important legislation, the Congress did take an historic step in 1958 by enacting legislation chartering a National Cultural Center to be located in Washington and providing land for the construction of a building to be paid for by private subscription. Efforts to raise the money are now underway.
If this legislation were passed, it would certainly be incumbent upon the next President of the United States to name an advisory council representative of the top people in all our arts, in the belief that it would produce a program that not only would resolve the questions you have raised in the field of music, but provide a firm base for expansion of all the arts and American participation in them in the future.
A few years later, the culture wars intensified, and RN came into bitter political conflict with members of the arts community. That part of the story is familiar. What is less well-known is that, as president, he backed arts funding. On December 10, 1969, he said:
At a time of severe budget stringency, a doubling of the appropriation for the arts and humanities might seem extravagant. However, I believe that the need for a new impetus to the understanding and expression of the American idea has a compelling claim on our resources.
Nowadays, it is hard to picture a Republican presidential candidate criticizing Congress for inaction on the arts, or a GOP president agreeing to such an expansion of outlays.