Kevin Spacey, Richard Nixon, and the Arts
Recently, Oscar winner and House of Cards star Kevin Spacey shared some surprisingly favorable words for Richard Nixon, shedding some light on the efforts of the President to extend federal support for the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Spacey, a strong advocate of building awareness for the arts and humanities founded The Kevin Spacey Foundation just for that purpose. In a conversation with POLITICO, Spacey was asked which president had done the most for the arts. His surprising response:
“Richard Nixon. That may be a surprising name for you to hear. But he actually funded the National Endowment for the Arts more than any president had up until that time.”
In fact, 40 years ago today, President Nixon signed into law the National Foundation on the Arts and the Humanities Amendments of 1973, a measure extending for 3 years the authorization for the Foundation beyond its termination date. President Nixon also urged Congress to approve $40,000,000 in new funds for the Foundation, citing the leaders’ obligatory “commitment to enhancing the quality of life for all Americans.” This amount was two times the amount appropriated in the original National Foundation on the Arts and Humanities, signed into law in 1965 by President Johnson.
With increased appropriations, The National Foundation would:
“-Bring more productions in music, theatre, literature readings and dance to millions of citizens.
-Bring more young writers and poets into the school system, to help teachers motivate youngsters to master the mechanics of self-expression.
-Provide support to hard-pressed cultural institutions to meet the demands of new and expanding audiences.
-Address the imbalance between the sciences and the humanities in colleges and universities, advocating balance between the ability to discern and the ability to become knowledgeable.
-Broaden and deepen humanistic research into the basic causes of the divisions between races and generations at a time when these divisions were at their peak.”
President Nixon understood the significance of extending and increasing the foundation’s fund.
Year after year, the president acknowledged the vitality of developing wider appreciation of the arts and establishing a greater interest in the humanities. He especially paid homage to the program’s attention to young people doing scholarly work in the humanities, to provide equal concern in education to “the Pursuit of Happiness.” Attention given to the arts and the humanities, especially at a young age, would ultimately enhance the quality of life for all Americans in this pursuit. He simply envisioned a more prosperous future for Americans denied the inspiration and support of America’s cultural heritage.
Despite the stringency of the federal budget, President Nixon defended his calls to expand federal support for the arts and humanities by referring to the essence of societal rifts of his
“Studies in the humanities will expand the range of our current knowledge about the social conditions underlying the most difficult and far-reaching of the nation’s domestic problems.”
To more effectively develop larger solutions to larger societal issues, President Nixon believed in greater federal support for a field of study that focused on the perplexity of the human condition.
The extension and expansion of federal funding for the arts adds, yet again, to President Nixon’s tremendous record of domestic initiatives.