A Letter to Tim

Tim Walberg.jpg

To: Tim Walberg, Congressman, 7th District, Michigan

Dear Congressman Walberg,

As you are aware, we know each other.

You are my congressman; we live in the same county, eat in the same restaurants, shop in the same stores and know the same friends. I have enjoyed having you among the members of the audience in the orchestra where I serve as Music Director. You’ve attended symphony fund raising events. I know your wife, and I like her. I know and admire people who supported you in your effort to get re-elected. One family, whom I dearly love, even traveled to your swearing-in ceremony.

We are not enemies, but I cannot remain silent on your recent action.

Most probably we don’t share the same views on a number of subjects, but I’ve always thought, and I continue to think, that the primary challenge of being human is to hold to your values while not serving up disrespect to those who don’t share them. Most probably you think something similar.

And so, while my letter might seem like an attack, it is not. Instead it is a letter of the strongest possible disagreement. I doubt this letter will affect your thinking. Rather, most probably it will mean that people whom I love will become silent toward me. That is the price I pay for telling you my perception of the truth.

But I can’t be silent, because I believe you are wrong, and your thinking can potentially impact the whole country.

You have proposed that the National Endowment for the Arts be drastically cut. Your proposal is intended to be a part of a larger effort to slash the size of the Federal government. This comes in context of an election that brought great gains to the Republican Party. You benefited from that wave of voter discontent, and I believe you are responding to it. Showing in a tangible way that you think government is too large will surely play well to an electorate that is rattled by an economy that continues to deteriorate.

You lost your seat once, and I am sure you don’t want to lose it again. You’ve chosen the NEA as a reasonable target. It is probably not the most important federal agency to this district, and yet, that agency has served us locally. Last year, the orchestra here received $10,000 from the NEA in support of a concert that concluded a two-year composer-in-residence project that resulted in five world premieres.That same music will soon be recorded by the London Symphony Orchestra. That project couldn’t have happened without funding from a variety of sources, and the National Endowment for the Arts was one of them.

But, in truth that is not the reason to write this letter. I could not argue that the whole country should be taxed just so that our little county could benefit. Because, to do so would not adequately value what the NEA does.

The NATIONAL Endowment for the Arts is about all of us. It takes a very small token from each person and rewards the whole country with a wealth of art. It encourages small places throughout the United States, places like Lenawee County – your county – to raise their sites toward greater things. It changes the landscape of the nation in its appreciation for beauty and meaning. It is a statement of community rather than of individualism. It is a benefit to the whole.

The National Endowment for the Arts is one of the best-run agencies of the federal government. I have sat on NEA granting committees in the past and was so impressed with the professionalism of the staff, the disciplined thinking in the deliberation process, and the strict following of guidelines leading to the awarding of the grants. I was genuinely proud to serve in its behalf. I felt I had done something truly good for this country, and I left with a new appreciation of what it means to be awarded a grant by the whole nation through the agency of the National Endowment for the Arts.

I agree with you that the deficit has grown. It worries me too. There are things in this government I would choose to cut, but the NEA isn’t one of them. Cutting the NEA is a statement of values, and, in my opinion, you’re simply wrong on this issue.

I honestly don’t know how you can sit in a concert hall full of people of such diverse backgrounds and not understand the value of the arts to a community as a whole. I can’t grasp that you could not see that the entire nation is just like this county, and that it NEEDS the joy that the arts bring to all of us. Those arts have collective value. They are worthy of a very small portion of national expenditures. I’m disappointed in you, Tim.

I am sad to say that your proposal to double the proposed amount of money to be cut from the NEA in this budget is a colossal failure of vision. It does damage to all of us, and you do not represent my views as a citizen of this county, state and nation.


John Thomas Dodson

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  1. Steve Freeborn says

    Over the past few years, my appreciation for the arts has grown and my inolvement in not for profit orgainizations has broaden. Arts are as important to the human experience as the air we breath and the food we eat.
    I have also written to Mr. Walberg urging him to reconsider his stance on the funding of the NEA. I suggested that he needs to understand that taking the “butcher knife” approach to budget reduction will probably produce negative results that were never considered or intended.

  2. Narric Rome says

    Thank you Mr. Dodson for your terrific advocacy effort. Rep. Walberg’s amendment passed by a close vote of 217-209 just an hour ago. Now we must work on the U.S. Senate to reject these deep cuts. Thank you for speaking up.
    -Narric Rome
    Senior Director of Federal Affairs
    Americans for the Arts

  3. Tom Hodgman, Chair Music Dept. Adrian College says

    Bravo John Dodson! Thank you for putting into words the discontent felt by so many not only in Lenawee County but across the nation.

  4. says

    As always, your contribution to art and our community is true, well done, beautiful and moving. So much more than just a performance or just a letter. Thank you and Bravo!

  5. says

    Thank you, John! You’ have expressed the thoughts in my head and the feelings in my heart in an eloquent and insightful way…much more appropriate than the verbal lashing I’ve given all Congressman in my mind.
    How can we ever bring people to understand the value in beauty, the value in coming together as a community to share something so special that it only happens once in a place and time, to value how we grow and learn through art….we can do that by DOING art. Thank you, John for doing the art….for being the art. Let us all hope and pray that our voices will not only be heard, but felt.

  6. says

    Did you vote for Mark Schauer? I did.
    Did you contribute to Mark’s campaign? I did.
    Did you campaign for Mark? I did not.
    Did you do enough to re-elect Mark? I did not.
    Everything else is mere lament. We got exactly what we knew was coming and we were too lazy to join the fight. Tahrir Square puts us to shame.

  7. Bill Kenyon says

    Well and eloquently stated, my friend. I hope others join us in communicating with Mr. Walberg about what Steve Freeborn refers to as the “butcher knife” approach to budget cutting.

  8. J.Renee Collins says

    A beautiful letter John, but sadly falling on very deaf ears. Unfortunately, Mr. Walberg is much more interested in headlines than he is in the arts. Cuts like this will give him some big headlines in the papers tomorrow and he really feeds on that. Obviously, with the salary he is making as “our” representative, he can afford the arts whenever he pleases. Perhaps cutting the pay of our representatives could help fund the arts we so desperately need in these tough times.

  9. Bill Layton says

    A family sits down at the table. They only have $10. Do they spend it to buy food, or to buy arts supplies?
    The economy is in crisis. All of you “arts supporters” – please, continue to support the arts. Feel free to donate your time and money. Hold bake sales, or God forbid, actually ask artists to create work viable enough to sell. But just stop begging the government to give you money. Obviously it is important to you. May I suggest you tighten your own belts – and give the money you save to the arts which you love.
    Mr Dodson, you are not a poor man. Get the hint.

  10. Little L says

    I am so pleased that you wrote this letter and in the way that you did. Thank you. I am ashamed to say that I just posted some comments regarding the cuts and did not do it with eloquence or grace. Because I was very very angry and because so many other political games have been played in the last few days with things that are near and dear to me. We can all learn from your restraint in your words. But in your actions….I really and truly believe we must treat this like a strike. All artists collectively across this great nation must stand in solidarity and effectively have a blackout. Some of the ignorant comments made about how we artists need to stop begging for money is insulting beyond words. We are enriching the community and the nation and most of us, in fact the majority of us see very little financial reward EVER if any at all. We do it because we are artists. Because we were called to do this work, just like a nun or a priest feels a calling. I won’t stop being an artist, and idealist, and a person of truth and beauty. I won’t. They can’t take my creativity from me. Many have tried and all have failed. This is war.

  11. renman says

    FYI all, and you especially Mr. B. Layton and your ilk:
    Using the $10 example —
    if the Federal Budget equaled $10, the NEA would be getting 4 CENTS.
    ::sarcasm:: RAGING EXTRAVAGANCE!
    The bulk (as in multiple $ –> social entitlement programs and the military)
    But yes we would rather feed only the belly and never the soul, leaving us with mindless drones incapable of appreciating artistic beauty or creating an artistic work, content only to wallow in the lowest, basest, crassest forms of “entertainment.”
    The “bread and circus” of the Roman emperors may have kept the masses quiet, but we all know how badly that ended and how little the Romans contributions to the classic arts, save their architecture and engineering, really were.

  12. 'Sax player' says

    I came across this by accident but am also compelled to comment.
    I graduated from Peabody with a dual major, was a military bandsman and will always be a musician at heart, if not performing professionally. I was a business owner for 2 decades.
    Just because one is a ‘classical’ musician, or jazzer, or any other kind of ‘artist’, does NOT entitle anyone to believe one is DUE a living! If you want to earn a living as a musician, then MAKE a living doing so. Market yourselves! Nobody owes you ANYTHING, so quit complaining, study marketing techniques and EARN your keep. Nobody EVER gave me, or my wife, also a classically-trained musician, anything she didn’t EARN. What most artists are, are LAZY and suffering from a sense of ENTITLEMENT!
    You’re NOT entitled to any civic monies unless you actually EARNED them, and the government’s job is NOT to support ‘the arts’ or a LOT of other ventures it currently does. I STRONGLY recommend that instead of floridly whining, that you start MARKETING your musical organization, get out and get your feet sore networking and get your hands dirty. If your organization is worth it, you’ll be able to acquire funding.
    You’re NOT entitled to one penny of taxpayer funding just because you’re a musician! EARN YOUR KEEP! Or do something else for a living…

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