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A group of six people stand together wearing business attire around a cocktail table, smiling.
From left: Board Member Oliver Rosales, President and CEO Julie Fry, Board Member Cheryl Alethia Phelps, National Endowment for the Humanities Chairman Jon Parrish Peede, Advocacy and Outreach Manager John Nguyen-Yap, and Humanities on the Hill Coordinator Christianna Shortridge. Photo: Allison O’Brien .

California Humanities Went to Washington

Each March, state humanities councils from across the country gather in Washington, DC for Humanities on the Hill (HOH), an opportunity to meet with our Congressional representatives to ask for increased funding for the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), with whom we all partner. Our recent trip to DC involved meetings with 48 legislators and legislative staff. We told them about projects we have funded or programs we have delivered in their districts, delving into the current priorities among their constituents and making the ask for $167.5 million for the NEH in the 2020 budget. That includes $53 million for the Federal/State Partnership, which is where our NEH support resides. It is a powerful and meaningful way to make the case for why the humanities are an important tool for civic engagement and for lifting up the voices and stories of people across California.

Our work in California has served the breadth of needs and interests in the state. Our legislators and their staff members genuinely connected with examples of how our work has supported their constituents. For some, knowing that projects we have funded like War Ink and programs we deliver, like Literature and Medicine to improve service and healing for our veterans anchored the relevance of humanities. Others were appreciative of the grants and programs being offered to hear from our youth, immigrant populations, and rural communities like CDP NEXT GEN and Library Innovation Lab. Finally, our legislators were left with the knowledge that their investment in the NEH not only catalyzes empathy and understanding, but also is a stimulus in the local economy. For every federal dollar invested into the NEH, four dollars are generated locally through matching donors, grants, in-kind donations, and more.

From participating board member Oliver Rosales:

“Humanities on the Hill 2019 was a wonderful experience. It’s such a pleasure to engage policy makers, their staff members, and meet humanities advocates from across the United States all invested in the same mission: educating our elected officials about the positive impact of our state humanities councils and the importance of continued funding for the National Endowment for the Humanities. With such diversity in California, HOH provides an opportunity to learn more about what is happening within congressional districts across the state, as well as the variety of grant programs California Humanities has funded successfully within those districts. The members of Congress and their staff members are always appreciative of learning about the humanities programs and grant making within their districts. We in turn are appreciative of their insights into how California Humanities can be more effective among their constituents and district stakeholders. As a community college professor, historian, and advocate for the humanities, HOH is an invaluable professional development experience and encourages me to continue cultivating the relationship between my humanities networks in the San Joaquin Valley with our federal and state officials.”

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