I am an avid watcher of Public TV. My senior year in HS, my English teacher was such a brilliant man. We were reading Shakespeare’s plays. One assignment was King Lear. I so enjoyed the play but it came to life for me when the PBS Great Performances series aired the play with James Earl Jones as King Lear, Ellen Holly as Reagan, Rosalind Cash as Goneril and as Cordelia. It was my first to experience an all-Black cast performing Shakespeare. I was mesmerized. PBS has provided many memorable experiences for me such as Dance in America: Martha Graham Dance Company, Brideshead Revisited, and The Six Wives of Henry VIII. I watched Upstairs, Downstairs and even Poldark I. Who could forget How Green Was My Valley and Madame Bovary?
Public TV has always been part of my life. I watched those early cooking shows with Julia Childs. What is there for a girl growing up in the South who loved to read books to do? I was a Premed major in college but after my sophomore year, I changed my major and minored in English. I took a course in Shakespeare, English Romanticism, Chaucer and Southern Literature. I was rejuvenated by writing and just reading. I needed the science to get into medical school but I needed the Arts to make me a better doctor. The Arts fed my soul and helped me become more altruistic and empathetic. PBS allowed me to see performances that I never would have had the opportunity to experience because we did not have the money. In college, I saw plays and live performances that were once in a life-time. I saw the Martha Graham, Alvin Ailey, and Paul Taylor Dance Companies. The concerts included Roberta Flack and Randy Crawford.
My life was enriched by funds from the National Endowment for the Arts and I fear that if the funds are cut, other children will be deprived of their opportunity to have their lives enriched. In elementary school, we had trips to the Symphony and arts programs. I spent many hours at the Public Library during the summer. The Library was our unofficial babysitter. The NEA was created by the US Congress in 1965. Roger L. Stevens was the first Chairperson appointed by Lyndon B. Johnson. The National Endowment for the Humanities provides grants for high-quality humanities projects to cultural institutions such as museums, archives, libraries, colleges, universities, public television, and radio stations, and to individual scholars. It was created in 1965 under the National Foundation on the Arts and Humanities, which included the National Endowment for the Arts. The programs I benefitted from in college were funded by the NEH.
I will continue to support PBS every opportunity I get. We buy our favorite shows and give during the Annual Fund drives. I can’t imagine my life without it. From Foyle’s War to Downton Abbey, I have been educated and entertained. What would I do without all those Ken Burns’ documentaries and Henry Louis Gates? Oh my, how could I live without Nature? After a long day of seeing patients, I get a great laugh from Father Brown and Death in Paradise.
We don’t need more warships, aircraft or a wall on the border. We need the arts to allow us to dream and enrich our lives. A little girl from the South can go to college, medical school and finish her medical training while maintaining her love of the arts because with the remote in her hand and right in her living room on her TV set, she could see a world that she never would have had the time or money to see. That is what we may lose if these funds are cut.