Each January, The United States Conference of Mayors (USCM) hosts its winter meeting in Washington, DC. This meeting is attended by around 500 of the nation’s mayors who represent cities with a population of more than 30,000. Americans for the Arts has partnered with the USCM for over 20 years and presents our Public Leadership in the Arts Awards at a breakfast plenary session. This year, we honored Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, Akron, OH Mayor Don Plusquellic, and Dubuque, IA Mayor Roy Buol. Americans for the Arts also honors an artist who has promoted the arts and arts education through their body of work. This year, we honored actress Fran Drescher for her work in promoting the arts over her career. If you would like to see past awardees, please check out our public leadership in the arts pages.
The USCM meeting always hosts a variety of high level elected and appointed officials. This year, nine cabinet secretaries spoke at USCM meeting while President Obama hosted the mayors at the White House. I had the luck to end up sitting next to Education Secretary Arne Duncan at the USCM Education Committee meeting. I was able to thank him for his support of arts in education and his department’s model grant program. While Secretary Duncan is certainly familiar with Americans for the Arts, it is events like this, at the USCM where people like Secretary Duncan do not expect to see us, but when they do, our presence and words carry even more meaning and importance given the nature of the meeting and those who are attending.
So, whether you are in DC, or in your local supermarket, always be prepared with your elevator speech on why the arts and arts education must be supported as you never know when you might have the chance to educate one of your elected officials.