The Entire President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities Just Resigned

The committee, which includes author Jhumpa Lahiri, sent a coded message in its resignation letter

Jhumpa Lahiri
Jhumpa Lahiri (Photo by Internaz on Flickr)

Citing the president’s unwillingness to unequivocally condemn white supremacists and Nazis, all 17 members of the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities have resigned en masse. The advisory committee, appointed by President Obama, hasn’t met under Trump, perhaps because he is actively hostile to their work. (Honorary chair Melania Trump, who did not sign the letter of resignation, also doesn’t seem very motivated by art; we’ll refrain from speculating on what she is motivated by.) But it’s continued work on preexisting projects—until today.

“Art is about inclusion,” wrote the committee, which includes artist Chuck Close and author Jhumpa Lahiri. “The Humanities include a vibrant free press. You have attacked both.” This is the first official White House committee to resign.

Here’s the letter:

The Obama-appointed chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities already resigned months ago—the gutting of the NEH budget was sufficient for him to assess the environment as hostile, even without the administration explicitly condoning violent white nationalism. Go figure that a humanities expert would be able to read the writing on the wall.

So much for the “at least art will flourish under oppression” crowd, I guess. But hey: The first letter of each paragraph spells out RESIST. Poetry, specifically the acrostic, isn’t dead—yet.

About the Author

More Like This

A Superhero Fueled by Righteous Anger

In Tochi Onyebuchi's "Riot Baby," Ella's psychic gifts carry all the energy of a political protest

Jan 30 - Jennifer Baker

9 Books that Celebrate the Legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Writing that reminds us why we can’t wait for progress

Jan 20 - Dianca London

7 Books About Surviving Political and Environmental Disasters

Tochi Onyebuchi, author of "Riot Baby," on what happens when everything falls apart

Jan 16 - Tochi Onyebuchi