September 18, 2011

Guest Post: Senator David Holt

Government's role is to promote, only when it effectively can, those outcomes we value as a society that would not happen without public involvement.
Not every outcome that is good should be the government’s responsibility to support.  In some cases, the outcome might happen anyways, or might be more effectively reached by the private sector.

We as a society clearly value the arts.   We consume it every day, through music, television, and film.   Art touches our lives in our homes, in our workplaces, and during our commutes.   It is inseparable from Western civilization.

Though art, like many pursuits, must ultimately compete in the free market of ideas, there are necessary roles for the public sector in ensuring that certain outcomes are reached.

Public education is one example.  A rigorous education must include English, math, science and history.   But an education without art, just like athletics, is doomed to create citizens who lack the creativity and skills needed to become tomorrow’s entrepreneurs and critical thinkers.

Public buildings are another example.   Public projects must be built with austerity, but not without inspiration.

In the State Capitol are the murals known as “Pro Patria,” painted by Thomas Gilbert White.   They illustrate the sacrifices of Oklahomans made during World War I.  At the dedication in 1928, White said “through these canvases, may the muffled voices from the grave speak to the generations to come of a day when men were not too proud to fight and held life less than their country's honor."

I was born 61 years after Armistice Day.  Today, I serve the people of Oklahoma, in the shadow of White’s work.  This powerful art cannot help but do exactly as White predicted, and we are better public servants for it.

There are certainly limits.   The public sector’s involvement must be limited, must compete with other priorities, and must respect community standards.  But when the government chooses to educate our children or create our public spaces, it must do so responsibly.   It cannot do so without respecting the role of the arts.

I am 32-years-old.  I am part of a new generation of young Oklahomans that have chosen to make my life here, following generations of young people who chose to leave.   My generation wishes to live in a state that values culture.   A state that doesn’t is a state without young people.   A state without young people is a state without a future.  

Senator David Holt (R – Oklahoma City) is a board member for Allied Arts and the Cultural Development Corporation, and serves on the ACM@UCO Business Development Center Advisory Board.  He is the past board president of Oklahoma Shakespeare in the Park, and a past member of the Oklahoma City Arts Commission. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.