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