Confirming several rounds of rumors, President Obama announced today that he will nominate former Republican congressman Jim Leach of Iowa to head the National Endowment for the Humanities. In a written statement, Obama said "I am confident that with Jim as its head, the National Endowment for the Humanities will continue on its vital mission of supporting the humanities and giving the American public access to the rich resources of our culture. Jim is a valued and dedicated public servant and I look forward to working with him in the months and years ahead."
As Inside Higher Ed noted last week, Leach "co-founded the Congressional Humanities Caucus during his years in Congress, fought to save the National Historical Publications and Records Commission from elimination during the Bush administration, and was widely seen as a champion for the arts and humanities, receiving the Sidney R. Yates Award for Distinguished Public Service to the Humanities from the National Humanities Alliance in 2005."
The NYTimes has more, including comments from Leach on his nomination. He told the paper "America somehow thinks that leadership relates to governance, and it certainly does. But society is much bigger than governance, and some of the truly great leadership of our society is outside the governance arena. Our culture is more shaped by the arts and humanities than it often is by politics. And in difficult times the arts, sciences and humanities vastly increase in significance. And this is one of those times." He added "What the arts and humanities are all about is providing perspective, that culture is bigger than politics and that culture is what we ought to be celebrating in the United States, and it ought to be an aspect of human endeavor that brings people together rather than divides."
Leach's nomination is subject to Senate confirmation, but he should have smooth sailing. The nomination was widely praised this afternoon, and deservedly so. It's a great pick