Thursday, January 22, 2015

Scouting SOTUs

Someday I hope to hear a president of the U.S. stand up in the chamber of the House of Representatives in the Capitol and give a great big shout out to America’s museums. (Perhaps citing them as critical infrastructure--on a par with schools, and roads. I can dream, can't I?) Meanwhile, I listen for more subtle clues to how national policy will affect our field. Today on the blog, Gail Ravnitzky Silberglied, the Alliance’s vice president of government relations & advocacy, shares a few excerpts from the president’s speech that offer an opportunity for museums to be part of the debate:

Last night, President Obama delivered his State of the Union address at the U.S. Capitol. In his 65-minute speech, the president outlined his priorities and proposals for 2015. Congress will now begin its work to set federal funding levels, develop tax policy and determine next steps for our nation’s education system.

“It’s all about building the most competitive economy anywhere…21st century businesses will rely on American science and technology, research and development.”

Museums are inspiring innovation, creativity and problem-solving, which form the framework for a competitive economy. Congress needs to know our tremendous economic impact.
“For far too long, lobbyists have rigged the tax code with loopholes [and] giveaways that the super-rich don’t need.”

Hopefully this wasn’t a reference to the charitable deduction, which is neither a loophole nor a giveaway but a vital lifeline accounting for one-third of museums’ operating budgets. (And we won’t take it personally that he knocked lobbyists.)
“We are demonstrating the power of American strength and diplomacy.”

We'll make the case that museums are making a valuable contribution to public diplomacy through traveling exhibitions, international exchange programs and the Museums Connect program.
Finally, the President said,
“It’s up to us to choose who we want to be and who we want to become.” 

Will museums be part of the equation?

“Museums have a golden opportunity to influence the Congressional agenda this year,” said the Alliance’s president, Ford W. Bell. “From job creation, education and public diplomacy to disaster relief, human rights and honoring our veterans, the issues raised last night are very much in line with what museums are doing every day. I invite everyone to join us in Washington, D.C. Feb. 23-24 to make the case for museums as part of Museums Advocacy Day.”

It’s up to us to choose whether we want to be at the table as museum advocates, or risk museums being on the table.

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