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NEH Chairman Visits Arkansas PDF Print E-mail

NEH Chairman Visits Arkansas

Jim Leach, Chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities and former congressman from Iowa, visited Arkansas April 27-28, one of his stops on a 50-state tour focused on bringing civility to public discourse.  He presented his "Words Do Matter" lecture at the Clinton School of Public Service on April 28.  Chairman Leach was appointed NEH chairman by President Obama in 2009.

leach photo 4-2011.jpg
NEH photo by Greg Powers and Audrey Crewe

Leach had dinner with AHC board members, guests and staff on April 27 and discussed NEH and the work of the state councils.  He accompanied AHC Board Chair Pat Ramsey and the others to Bold Pilgrim Cemetery in Morrilton the following morning to tour and meet with members of the Bold Pilgrim Cemetery Preservation Association.  Leach viewed the film   "Buried Treasures: The Stories of Bold Pilgrim Cemetery" and enjoyed a potluck dinner and discussion of the film with association members and community friends.  The film and the cemetery preservation and documentation project were funded by AHC grants.

In his opening remarks at the Clinton School, Leach observed that few topics might seem "duller" than concern for civil discourse.  He said that civility impies politeness, but civil discourse is about more than etiquette...
civility requires respectful engagement: a willingness to consider other views and place them in the context of history, philosophy, and life experiences."

His focus established, Leach reflected on "politicians and their supporters who use inflammatroy rhetoric to divide the country."  He noted that while "politicians may prevail by tearing down rather than uplifting...if elected, they cannot then unite an angered citizenry."

Leach ended his lecture with a reference to the work of William Butler Yeats.  "In Western civilization's most prophetic poem, 'The Second Coming,' William Butler Yeats suggests that "the centre cannot hold when the best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity."

During his Arkansas visit, Leach was also interviewed by Steve Barnes of Arkansas Educational Television Network, the Arkansas PBS affiliate.  AETN continues to broadcast this interview.

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