Did you watch the State of the Union address? Regardless if the person who holds the office got my vote or not (I'll keep that to myself), I watch with an open-mind to the policies laid out before our Congress and our nation. I believe a certain respect for the office of the presidency has diminished. I can at least give one hour-plus of my life in January to hear what our Commander in Chief has to say if I wish to be an engaged citizen. Read the speech here.
"If you want to make a difference in the life of our nation; if you want to make a difference in the life of a child -- become a teacher. Your country needs you," was President Barack Obama's call to the youth of our nation considering their career paths.
Long after leaving school, my thirst for knowledge hasn't diminished. With age, it seems to grow even stronger, and validates my long held belief education is lost and wasted on an ungrateful youth. What 18 year old can truly appreciate endless hours of studying?
Our teachers beyond the schoolroom may not be the traditional ones. They are the historical groups with non-paid volunteers, the authors of books toiling away for years on research, librarians, poets, singers, the bloggers typing away after a long day of homemaking duties or at work sharing their knowledge with the world. These are some of my teachers. Who are yours?
We can all serve as teachers, even in the non-traditional way. As Michael Stipe declares in R.E.M.'s Discoverer, "I have never felt so called."
I cheered silently from my home when President Obama stated rightfully,
"We need to teach our kids that it's not just the winner of the Super Bowl who deserves to be celebrated, but the winner of the science fair."
I also thought of this New York Times piece, small in length but large in deflation of spirit, regarding a group of Republican lawmakers calling for the elimination of the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
"Robert L. Lynch, president of Americans for the Arts, a lobbying group, said...that the arts provide 5.7 million jobs in the United States that generate about $30 billion in taxes, nearly $13 billion of which goes to the federal government. "If they're serious about jobs and they'e serious about income, they would invest more in the arts," Mr. Lynch said." Of course, according to our major news media, the only way to stimulate the economy is to go to the mall.
Arts never seem to be high on the national radar, but they are vital to our own continuing education as lifelong seekers of wisdom. With shrinking government budgets from townships all the way to the federal level, the private citizen will be called on to support the arts, even in some small way. Here's some of how I am supporting the arts.
Patronizing local plays. My sweetheart and I attended A.R. Gurney's humorous The Cocktail Hour put on by the Bergen County Players, which have been staging theatrical productions have been running since 1932. The matinee was a bargain at $16. We left wondering about our own families' hidden secrets.
Supporting public radio and television stations. One of my favorite radio programs is WFUV's The Big Broadcast, a 4-hour show of 1920s and 30s music Sunday evening that runs way past my bedtime. I enjoy the archives (two shows are listed) all week long, and they are largely available thanks to member-support. This year, I plan on become a long overdue member, and embarrassed to admit it took me this long.
Giving business to local book shops, and "voting" for the books themselves (no curling up this blustery winter with a gadget for me). I thrift and go to the library for most books since I'm budget minded and believe in communal sharing. But when I buy new (which I plan to do with As Always, Julia), I support my local, main street bookseller, Shaw's Book Shop in Westwood, New Jersey, where the owner knows me by name.
A lot of lip service is paid about small business among politicians of both parties in seemingly every State of the Union speech, and always draws loud applause, but chain stores and mall parking lots seem to be packed, while many small shops, main streets, and family farms struggle. All the applause in the world will do them no good unless we spend our dollar there.
Supporting upcoming, unsigned artists. I stumbled on Tuba Skinny busking at flea market in Woodstock, New York, and have fallen in love with their style of American 1920s and 30s music, an era I'm quite enamored with as of late. Their third cd, Garbage Man just arrived in the mail. See if Garbage Man won't have your toes tapping in no time.
You won't find them on MTV, which is too busy showing borderline child pornography programming with Skins in a destructive world of 17 going on 34, self-indulgent teenagers with million dollar sweet 16 parties, or that show which all descent New Jerseyans rue they ever heard of. Nor will they be on mainstream radio - much of what's on there wouldn't fit my standard for "artist." Although as my boyfriend likes to remind me, I'm no longer the "targeted demographic".
Donating to my Friends of the Library program. Libraries, such havens for knowledge seekers of all ages, have come under attack in the Great Recession.
For free (I've never had HBO through my cable package), my mind devoured the John Adams HBO miniseries (a definite recommend), in which he bemoaned his presidency would only be remembered for the Alien and Sedition Acts. Flash forward to 2011, and he's lucky to be remembered at all. I'm sure Snookie would have a higher name recognition.
Of course I'll be attending events with the Bergen County Historical Society. I'll bring you along too. Because I'd rather spend a Sunday with American royalty, not on my couch watching a bunch of miserable housewives, as numb to the world as their faces are after a session of Botox.