Finding shared values
Three times a year I have the privilege of writing comments in this space. Usually, I want to celebrate a program we are funding, or highlight the theme of this edition of FORUM, or bid farewell to a colleague like Jon Wilson, who has graced these pages with his skillful and perceptive writing for too many years to count.
But today I want to say “thank you” to our members; a deep and sincere thank you for your support of the humanities and the Council over the years. You have inspired a deeper understanding of, and commitment to, Florida and have allowed the Council to support community partners who share the state’s history, literature, culture, and personal stories.
I sometimes wonder what motivates you to be so generous. Our recent surveys show you love reading FORUM, but I sense you believe in something more fundamental; that the humanities are indispensable for a free and diverse society to thrive and we all need to stand together to make the case.
When the National Endowment for the Humanities was created in 1965, one of its sponsors, Congressman Frank Thompson, said this in support of the legislation:
Finding the purpose which comes from values deeper than power describes what the humanities offer that other forms of education cannot. This is why everyone who cares about the development of our next generation should call their school boards and demand that the humanities be taught. It is why libraries, museums, and historical societies ought to be supported. Helping us all find that purpose which comes from values deeper than power is the humanities’ gift to democracy. It is the source of wisdom and vision in our citizens. Power, whether measured by wealth, political influence, celebrity, or military might, is not and never has been.
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At its core, the humanities help us better understand what truly matters to each one of us and offer some insight as to what matters to others. This deeper human understanding allows us to discover shared values, and that is the heart of building community. As the eminent Judge Learned Hand wrote, “the spirit of liberty is the spirit which seeks to understand the minds of other men and women.”
Thank you, members, for taking part in this cause. And thank you, Jon Wilson, for crafting your words so carefully for so long.
This article originally appeared in the Spring 2019 issue of FORUM magazine.
Florida Humanities Council