Speak up for Our Present and Our Future

In 2015, Wyoming Humanities Council helped bring Sam Mihara to Thermopolis. Mihara had grown up in the Heart Mountain detention center in Wyoming, less than 100 miles from our town. All Japanese citizens who lived along the coasts were rounded up in 1942 during World War II as potential spies for the Japanese government. They were allowed to take only what they could carry and sent to hastily built “camps,” where they lived behind barbed wire until after the war ended in 1945.
 
Mihara spoke to our community and in our schools. He talked about what it was like for an entire group of citizens to be the target of their own government. 
 
Hearing his story first-hand and seeing the photos made that piece of tragic history come alive.  And his story put the issues we face today into a far clearer perspective. 
Our young people gave Mihara a standing ovation. So did our adults and seniors, many of whom remember the events.
 
These programs would not have been possible without grants from the Wyoming Humanities Council. The Wyoming Arts Council has also supported numerous arts-related programs in our community. Much of the funding for these two state agencies comes from the federal agencies known as the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts.
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In rural America, the NEA and NEH
enhance education 
but also serve as economic lifelines.
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In thousands of small rural communities like ours, these two organizations are lifelines that support important conversations and help others learn new skills. But they also have a significant economic impact: a local dollar must be raised for every dollar spent — and that does not count the thousands of hours of donated time and services needed to make the local programs happen.
Plus the local programs and activities allow small communities to attract visitors who, in turn, spend more money in the communities. Because the programs raise at least as much money as the federal government invests, it is clearly a win-win for all. 
 
And yet, right now, there is a proposal by our current administration in Washington that both the NEH and NEA agencies be disbanded and the programs be closed down permanently, despite their success. It cannot be because they are too expensive. The combined budgets of these two agencies equal only 4 hours and 23 minutes of spending on the U.S. Military — which is where the money is to be diverted, according to proposed budgets. In fact, there has been mention that there will be more military parades to show off America’s military prowess.
I appreciate the role of the military and its importance to our country’s safety. But the minds, hands and hearts of America’s citizens are more valuable than parades designed to do little more than show off our strength. It echoes too closely for comfort to the actions of too many dictators. 
It is often said that those who do not know history are bound to repeat it. 
That is why conversations, such as those sponsored by the Wyoming Humanities Council and the Wyoming Arts Council, are so important. We need to understand who we are as a country — and what is truly important in the larger scheme of things. 
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The minds, hands and hearts
of America’s citizens
are more valuable than military parades.
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Please let Congressional officials know that four hours and 23 minutes of a military show-off of might are a poor trade-off for our people.
To allow such a shift in our American ideals is to sell the soul of our nation for crumbs. Our citizens deserve better.
Ellen Sue Blakey

To read our story of Sam Mihara: http://hsglf.org/sam-mihara-memor…-internment-camp/

To read a good commentary from the Wyoming Humanities Council go to https://www.thinkwy.org/determining-true-cost-humanities/

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