President Donald Trump’s remarks about the white nationalist violence in Charlottesville, Virginia leads to mass resignations of committee members. Image: John Beasley as Troy Maxson Fences. Photo: Eric Antoniou
WASHINGTON DC- In protest to President Donald Trump’s response to the violence that erupted during the recent protests in Charlottesville, Virginia, all 17 private Members of the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities (PCAH) have resigned. In their resignation letter, they noted that they could no longer stay in their positions following the president’s “support of the hate groups and terrorists who killed and injured fellow Americans in Charlottesville.” With their resignation, the committee members made up of actors, artists, writers, and architects join the list of other committees, including infrastructure, business, and manufacturing, that have resigned to show their displeasure with the President’s handling of the violence in Charlottesville.
In an open letter of resignation to Trump posted on Twitter by the actor and PCAH Committee member Kal Penn, members chastised the President’s response to the violence in Charlottesville. According to the committee “Supremacy, discrimination, and vitriol are not American values. Your values are not American values,” therefore “Reproach and censure in the strongest possible terms are necessary following your support of the hate groups and terrorists who killed and injured fellow Americans in Charlottesville.”
Although the Committee expressed that “Speaking truth to power is never easy, Mr. President,” it was however imperative to confront injustice when they see them. “But it is our role as commissioners on the PCAH to do so. Art is about inclusion. The humanities include a vibrant free press. You have attacked both,” the committee notes in its letter. The letter ends with a call for a better understanding of the race issues in America. “We must be better than this. We are better than this. If this is not clear to you, then we call on you to resign your office, too.”
Although this scathing letter of resignation is clear on why members are resigning, it also seems to include a hidden message to the President. The first letter of each paragraph of the letter spells “RESIST” – a common anti-Trump slogan.
Established in 1982 under President Reagan, the PCAH is an advisory committee to the White House on cultural issues. As noted on PCAH’s website, the committee’s core areas of focus are “arts and humanities education, cultural exchange, and creative economy”. Its main objective is to bridge “the interests of federal agencies and the private sector, supports special projects that increase participation and excellence in the arts and humanities and helps incorporate these disciplines into White House objectives.”
The First Lady Melania Trump is the Honorary Chair of PCAH. Members include Paula Boggs, Chuck Close, Richard Cohen, Fred Goldring, Howard L. Gottlieb, Vicki Kennedy, Jhumpa Lahiri, Anne Luzzatto, Thom Mayne, Kalpen Modi (Kal Penn), Eric Ortner, Ken Solomon, Caroline Taylor, Jill Cooper Udall, Andrew Weinstein, George Wolfe, and John Lloyd Young.