By BILL GOODMAN
Congress is one step closer to making Kentucky's history obsolete, and the longer we turn a blind eye, the faster our heritage and culture will fade away. Washington is poised to eliminate funding for both the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts as I write.
While making up only a miniscule part of the annual federal budget, the impact of organizations supported by the endowments is beyond measure. How do you quantify a family literacy program that seeks to build family bonding and end the cycle of intergenerational illiteracy? What value would you place on a child experiencing history coming to life in their classroom? What price would you put on veterans gathering to share how their experiences shaped their lives long after their service ended? How would you determine the impact of rural Kentucky high school students learning from a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist?
I recently traveled to Washington to speak to our representatives and senators regarding Kentucky Humanities. I shared with them many of the positive stories we hear from across the commonwealth about how our programs continually impact Kentuckians.
The humanities should be important to everyone. They tell us who we are, where we came from, and where we are going. For 45 years, the Kentucky Humanities Council has been Telling Kentucky's Story, which is really the story of us all.
During the last five years, the Kentucky Humanities Council has brought more than 3,100 humanities events to the commonwealth, many of those in the Paducah area -- Abraham Lincoln in classrooms at Clark Elementary, Daniel Boone sharing Kentucky history with students at Lone Oak Intermediate, the Quilt Show at the Hotel Metropolitan, and Rev. Newton Bush sharing the terrible price paid for freedom with an audience at the McCracken County Public Library, just to name a few.
The humanities is not a liberal or conservative issue, but is a gateway to endless possibilities for everyone. I want all of the residents of Paducah and those across Kentucky to have the many opportunities I have enjoyed: a chance to contribute to the economic and cultural well being of my community, to become a life-long learner, to develop an appreciation and understanding of the history and heritage of the commonwealth, and to become an engaged citizen who supports and participates in local organizations.
What can we do to preserve the funding for more humanities programs like Kentucky Chautauqua in our classrooms, Prime Time Family Reading Time at our public libraries, and Smithsonian traveling exhibits at museums throughout the commonwealth? Contact our members of Congress and let them know that the humanities are an important part in strengthening Kentucky communities, engaging our citizens, and educating our workforce. Let them know that the humanities play a vital role in the lives of the people they represent and the communities they serve.
Eliminating the endowments won't balance the budget or reduce our taxes. Funding the endowments costs each of us less than 50 cents annually, and gives us back so much more.
The Kentucky Humanities Council has proudly served Kentucky since 1972; I hope you will support us in our efforts to continue Telling Kentucky's Story.
Bill Goodman is the Executive Director of Kentucky Humanities. Before taking over as Executive Director in January 2017, Goodman worked for Kentucky Educational Television (KET) for more than 20 years.