National Commission Hears Testimony about Humanities and Social Sciences

Brodhead-chaired panel preparing report for 2013

A national commission co-chaired by Duke President Richard H. Brodhead received first hand evidence of the importance of the humanities and social sciences at a meeting April 26-27 in Washington, DC. 

The commission, which is co-chaired by John Rowe, chairman emeritus of Exelon Corp., was convened last year by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in response to a request by a bipartisan group of congressmen and senators.  At the meeting, several speakers, including Cynthia Schneider, former U.S. Ambassador to the Netherlands, and Karl Eikenberry, retired U.S. Army lieutenant general and former U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan, testified about how humanities and social sciences learning contributed to their work.

The two ambassadors discussed how the two fields are essential to effective diplomacy and America's relations with the world, specifically citing the value of foreign languages and regional studies.

Congress asked the commission to prepare a report that answers this question:

What are the top ten actions that Congress, state governments, universities, foundations, educators, individual benefactors, and others should take now to maintain national excellence in humanities and social scientific scholarship and education, and to achieve long-term national goals for our intellectual and economic well-being; for a stronger, more vibrant civil society; and for the success of cultural diplomacy in the 21st century?

Commission members from different fields have met over the last year.  The group includes filmmaker George Lucas; columnist David Brooks; university presidents David Skorton of Cornell University and Amy Gutmann of the University of Pennsylvania; Phil Bredesen, former governor of Tennessee; and corporate leaders such as Roger Ferguson, president and CEO of TIAA-CREF.   

At a dinner later held at the Smithsonian Institution, three of the four members of Congress who had requested the formation of the commission addressed the group.  Sen. Lamar Alexander, Rep. David Price and Rep. Tom Petri expressed their appreciation for the work of the commission and their interest in the forthcoming report, which is expected to be completed later this year.