The Commission on the Humanities and Social Sciences released its report on the state of the humanities and social sciences, and their central role in ensuring a vibrant, secure, and prosperous America. The report and a seven-minute video (both entitled The Heart of the Matter) are available at http://humanitiescommission.org. Because I had the privilege of participating in one of the commission’s regional forums, I was invited to the opening. It was a wonderful opportunity to see firsthand how bipartisan congressional leaders can unite to voice a common concern about the importance of the humanities and social sciences for American life.
The report, produced at the request of Congress by the American Academy for the Arts and Sciences, details both the neglect of humanities and social sciences, and their essential importance in our economic, strategic, and civic future. The report is intended to mirror the National Academies of Sciences 2007 report “A Gathering Storm,” which effectively focused public attention (and some funding) on STEM research and education. Similarly, The Heart of the Matter is intended to help leaders in government, industry, philanthropy, and more to understand the importance of our disciplines for America–and what they need to do to ensure that we continue to have a vibrant, secure,and prosperous nation.
Of course, events like these do come with photo ops–and I wasn’t shy about participating! I had the opportunity to meet and talk with David Brooks of the New York Times/PBS Newshour, actor John Lithgow, and commission co-chairs Dick Brodhead (president of Duke University) and John Hennessy (president of Stanford University).
However, I think my favorite moment was handing a copy of Professor Akram Khater’s documentary of Lebanese migration in North Carolina (Cedars in the Pines) to US Representative David Price, co-sponsor of the commission’s work. It was a great moment. Representative Price knew of Professor Khater’s work, and was delighted to have his own copy of the DVD.
It was a wonderful evening, but now the real work begins. If The Heart of the Matter is to have the same impact in focusing our nation’s attention on the importance of humanities and social sciences for American prosperity and security, we will have to take the message to leaders in government, industry, education, and more. The work of the commission is done, but the work we need to do to realize its goals is just beginning. Keep in touch to help us carry this important message forward.
Jeff Braden, Dean