Publication Date

January 20, 2010

The following text is from an e-mail sent out by Jessica Jones Irons, executive director of the National Humanities Alliance, encouraging participation in this year’s NHA Annual Meeting & Humanities Advocacy Day. Register before February 7, 2010 for the March 8-9, 2010 events.

In “The Audacity of Hope”, author Barack Obama recounts a conversation he had with MIT scientist Robert Langer at Northwestern University’s 2006 commencement in which they discuss a declining federal investment in research and development through the nation’s higher education institutions. The passage is important because it lays the intellectual groundwork for the soon-to-be presidential candidate’s innovation agenda, including a $42 billion proposal to spur America’s competitiveness through increased federal R&D spending. It also provides an excellent example of effective advocacy outside of Washington.  But it is to the following remark that I would like to call your attention:

“Dr. Langer’s observation isn’t unique. Each month, it seems, scientists and engineers visit my office to discuss the federal government’s diminished commitment to funding basic scientific research. Over the last three decades federal funding for the physical, mathematical, and engineering sciences has declined as a percentage of GDP- just at the time when other countries are substantially increasing their own R&D budgets….”

Since taking office, President Obama has maintained his commitment to increase research funding and on February 17, 2009 one of his first acts as president was to sign into law the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, a $780 stimulus bill with more than $14 billion in funding for science and health R&D, including $3 billion to the National Science Foundation for grants to advance research and education in science and math.

I know this isn’t news to most of you, but my point is this:  President Obama’s R&D agenda did not develop in a vacuum.  It was informed to a great extent (and by the president’s own account) by the advocacy of scientists and engineers who came to Washington to make the case for increased federal investment, throughout Obama’s tenure as a member of the United States Senate.

We need your help in Washington, D.C. on March 8-9, 2010 to make the case for the humanities.  Your representatives and senators need to hear directly from you, as a leader in your field, on the importance of federal investment in the humanities.  Please register today to attend the National Humanities Alliance’s Annual Meeting and Humanities Advocacy Day.  The 2010 program will include:

  • Panel discussions on current developments in humanities policy
  • Luncheon and keynote address with NEH Chairman Jim Leach
  • Briefings on federal funding and legislative priorities
  • Capitol Hill reception
  • New advocate training
  • Congressional visits

Success of this year’s event depends upon participation from our member organizations and institutions. If you are unable to attend, as a voting Member Representative, please make sure your organization or institution is represented by designating another staff person, a board member, campus colleague, or other representative.

Help maintain our momentum.  Together we can raise the profile of the humanities research and education community in Washington, and build an infrastructure for advocacy in the humanities for the long-term.  I ask that you let us know as soon as possible how your organization will be represented.

Thank you for your continued support.
Jessica Jones Irons
Executive Director

This post first appeared on AHA Today.

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