This year President Donald Trump unveiled a federal budget plan that proposes the elimination of federal support for the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities. In response, our celebrated Board of Chancellors made a joint statement in support of continuing federal funding for the arts and humanities.

We, the Chancellors of the Academy of American Poets, express our strongest possible support for federal funding for the arts and humanities, specifically for the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities. These Endowments have, over the past fifty years, fostered an educated, broadly informed, and creative America at every level, from sponsoring national awards to seeding grants that support local programs in schools, communities, military bases, hospitals, museums, and beyond, throughout the country. The Chancellors are extremely concerned, and unanimously and strongly hope and expect, that the current level of federal support for these invaluable services to the American people be maintained.

The Academy, the nation’s largest member-supported organization championing poets and poetry, has worked with and received funding from both the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities for a range of programs, including the first Poets-in-the-Schools program in 1966, the first major website for poetry in 1996, and a multimedia suite of free poetry lesson plans for K-12 teachers in 2016. In our own work alone, these programs and publications reach more than 20 million readers each year. Federal funding for the arts and humanities underwrites scores of other nonprofit poetry organizations and publishers, arts education programs, libraries, archives, as well as the work of individual poets. Without federal support, many of these efforts may be jeopardized. 

Poetry matters. The arts and humanities encourage reflection, empathy, and imagination—all qualities necessary to our individual and collective success. American poetry and literature do more than preserve the unique stories of our citizens; they shape our national identity and understanding of our country’s unique strengths and challenges.  

Often quoted lines by Langston Hughes remind us that American democracy is a destination we must strive towards:

     O, let America be America again—
     The land that never has been yet—
     And yet must be—the land where every man is free.

To end our strong half-century tradition of honoring and supporting the voices of our own country would be to approve the silencing of the voices and stories of those who have lived and come before us, of those who are living now, and of coming generations of children, who may well find themselves without the opportunity to have their own stories, poems, songs, and voices encouraged and heard.

The National Endowment for the Arts is the largest single funder of the arts across America and has helped make possible. Read testimonials from poets who have received NEA grants and learn more about how you can support the NEA.