American Folklife Center fight won
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From: Peter Langston <psl>
Date: Mon, 12 Aug 96 13:14:25 -0700
Subject: American Folklife Center fight won
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A conference on Wednesday, July 31, between Senate and House halted the
fight for the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. I can
summarize what happened with two words: we won. My heartfelt thanks to
all in the old-time and bluegrass music world who took up the cudgels for
this great archive (mother lode?) of terribly important and deeply American
music and lore. You are a fine gang and it is a pleasure to be on the same
team with you.
A bill (HR 3491) that would have repealed the American Folklife
Preservation Act was defeated. The Librarian's plan to "save" the Folklife
Center by making it a division of the Library (while transferring much of
its funding to his digital library pet project) was rejected by House and
Senate. This is the plan was explained to Internet newsgroups by Dr. Alan
Jabbour who adhered to the planning of his boss, the Librarian.
Though the Library opposed it, the Congress authorized the American
Folklife Center for fiscal years 1997 and 1998 as an independent entity,
the status it has had since 1976. The Congress restored ALL funds the
Librarian transferred to his pet project. The Center will not be moved to
the Smithsonian but its supporters in the Congress served notice that a much
improved stewardship was expected of the Library. Actually, "served notice"
is a bit weak for what happened. "Kicking butt" is a better summary for what
two powerful committees did to the Librarian and his minions for a plan that
promised to eventually destroy the Center.
This was done by the Congress in a wonderfully bi-partisan way. Senate
supporters were led by Oregon's Mark Hatfield, Chairman of the Senate
Appropriations Committee, a gentleman noted for his wisdom and for always
trying to do what is right, come hell or high water. Mr. Hatfield is a
Republican and he was strongly supported by Republican Senators Connie Mack,
Robert Bennett, Jim Jeffords and Strom Thurmond, among others.
House supporters were led by Rep. David Obey of Wisconsin, a member of
the Democratic leadership and senior Democrat on the House Appropriations
Committee. Mr. Obey is often cited as "one of the brightest" members of
Congress -- and he is also leader of the bluegrass band, "The Capitol
Offenses." No one likes hillbilly music better than he does.
The Folklife Center's Board was led by its fine chairman, Judy McCulloh,
in opposing the Librarian's plan. The American Folklore Society was in the
fight, well led by its chairman, Jane Beck. South Carolina newsman Bill
Kinney, a member of the AFC Board, was an excellent soldier.
Thanks again to all of you who helped win this one. If there are others
who would like to be part of our gang of hell-raisers, send me your snail
and e-mail addresses. No big issue at the moment, but the anti-arts crowd
and the big-head elitists are well organized and we need to stay organized
as a grassroots lobby and be ready to take a bite out of them. Mr.
Hatfield suggested that we push for permanent authorization next year --
and we will. I'm not well versed in newsgroups, so please feel free to
re-post this message as appropriate. I'll close with a quote from some
eloquent comments made about this by Mr. Hatfield: "I believe all of us
understand, Mr. President, that the strength of our Nation proceeds from
its smaller places; from small towns in Missouri and Oregon, from short
streets in Brooklyn and Omaha."
© 1996 Peter Langston