From remarks by Lynne Cheney, chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, at the rededication of the Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Cody, Wyo., earlier this month:
I've been asked to say a few words about the humanities, something that has become increasingly easy for me lately, but which is particularly easy today, since museums are a way of learning about the humanities, a way of becoming educated about literature, art, and most of all about history. . . .
The Founding Fathers made this point often: a free people, if they are to remain free, must be able to think critically, as the humanities teach us to do. We must be able to judge truth from falsehood and right from wrong, to distinguish what abides from what is merely passing. Above all, we must be able to judge wisely, a capacity that grows as we gain the broad perspective that the humanities encourage.
Almost all the Founders spoke of the relationship between freedom and public education, but perhaps James Madison did it most eloquently. "What spectacle could be more edifying," he asked, "than that of liberty and learning, each leaning on each other for their surest and mutual support?"
This museum is a powerful tool for teaching the habits of mind important to democracy. It is also a powerful preserver of our heritage, and that too should be celebrated. . . . The world today has in it many things that drive people apart -- one cause or another, this interest group or that one -- but our heritage draws us together.
This museum and others across the nation are a cohesive force. . . .