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Letter Accepting Resignation of August Heckscher as Special Consultant for the Arts.

June 17, 1963

[ Released June 17, 1963. Dated June 10, 1963 ]

Dear Augie:

I accept your resignation with great regret. As Special Consultant for the Arts, you have initiated a new function in the Executive Office of the President. The best tribute to the success of your work is the decision to establish this function on a full-time and, I hope, permanent basis. I am sorry that you cannot take on the continuing assignment yourself; but I know your desire to return to your duties at the Twentieth Century Fund, and I am grateful for your willingness to stay until a successor has been named.

I have long believed, as you know, that the quality of America's cultural life is an element of immense importance in the scales by which our worth will ultimately be weighed. Your report on "The Arts and the National Government" opens up what I am confident will be a new and fruitful relationship between Government and the arts. Government can never take over the role of patronage and support filled by private individuals and groups in our society. But Government surely has a significant part to play in helping establish the conditions under which art can flourish--in encouraging the arts as it encourages science and learning.

We have much to learn in this complex and delicate area. Your Report will guide your successor and the President's Advisory Council on the Arts in their study of these problems. I am glad to have your assurance that you will serve on the Council when it is appointed, and I have no question that your work in these past months will be regarded as a milestone in the process by which our Government has begun to fulfill its responsibilities to our culture.



[Mr. August Heckscher, The White House, Washington, D.C.]

Note: The report "The Arts and the National Government," dated May 28, 1963 (79 pp., processed), was released by the White House on June 17 together with a summary of the report and Mr. Heckscher's letter of resignation.

In his letter Mr. Heckscher makes the following observations concerning the report:

"The major part of the report deals, as was suggested in your letter to me of December 5, 1961, with activities of the Federal departments and agencies as they relate to the arts; also with general policies, such as taxation, as they impinge upon this field. It has seemed wise, in addition, to consider ways in which the relationship of the Government to the private institutions of the arts and to the whole cultural life of the Nation could be made more explicit and helpful.

"In the course of the work it became evident that Government policies and programs affecting the arts are far more varied and extensive than is generally supposed. It is not enough to look at labels or to judge by declared objectives. Many Government policies ostensibly having nothing to do with the arts affect them in a substantial way--often adversely. Conversely, many agencies which seem removed from this field have responsibilities which they have been endeavoring to carry out, frequently with little recognition and inadequate support. This report casts its net widely and groups activities related to the arts under functional, rather than departmental, categories.

"In many of the areas surveyed the major need is for greater awareness of the possibilities for aesthetic improvement and of a more sharply defined responsibility to the arts. Increased expenditures are secondary. Elsewhere new programs and additional funds should be authorized, if Government's concern with the arts is to be effectively expressed. Even these sums are comparatively small--yet a relatively small amount of money may make all the difference between mediocrity and excellence."

John F. Kennedy, Letter Accepting Resignation of August Heckscher as Special Consultant for the Arts. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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