December 31, 2008
Willam R. Ferris, Senior Associate Director of the Center for the Study of the American South, Calls for a Cabinet-level Position for Culture
William R. Ferris is the senior associate director of the Center for the Study of the American South at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is a former head of the National Endowment for the Humanities from 1997-2001. In a recent op-ed piece (December 26, 2008), he calls for the creation of a Secretary of Culture. He believes that the creation of this cabinet-level position would lessen conflict among national arts and culture agencies (i.e., the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the Library of Congress, the National Archives, NPR, PBS, the Smithsonian Institution and the National Endowment for the Humanities), provide for cohesive leadership for the group of culture agencies, and provide for a more predictable funding and financing stream to these institutions.
This is an interesting idea for a nation that puts a lot into cultivating and preserving its national identity. Below is brief excerpt of this op-ed article:
But as chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities from 1997 to 2001, I learned firsthand that these institutions, though united by a shared goal, can sometimes run into conflict with one another. There were bureaucratic tangles, overlaps and missteps that, with foresight, could have been avoided.
Which is why I believe the president should create a cabinet-level position — a secretary of culture — to provide more cohesive leadership for these impressive programs and to assure that they receive the recognition and financing they deserve.
The president should initiate another change, too. The leaders of our cultural institutions should all have renewable 10-year appointments. (Some now serve only four-year terms.) Such a change would help to provide continuity and insulate the organizations from the tumult of political change. This move would allow each agency to develop long-term agendas in coordination with the secretary of culture in each administration.
Mr. Obama has an opportunity to revitalize our national spirit by strengthening our cultural programs at every level. It’s hard to imagine what could be a more important — and enduring — legacy.
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