Jim Leach served as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives for the state of Iowa for 30 years. He founded and co-chaired the Congressional Humanities Caucus, which is dedicated to advocating on behalf of the humanities in the House of Representatives and to raising the profile of humanities in the United States. The Caucus worked to promote and preserve humanities programs and commissions such as the Historical Publications and Records Commission. Mr. Leach and his co-founder, Rep. David Price, received the Sidney R. Yates Award for Distinguished Public Service to the Humanities from the National Humanities Alliance in 2005. During his tenure in Congress, Mr. Leach also served as Chairman of the House Committee on Banking and Financial Services (1995-2001), a senior member of the House Committee on International Relations and Chairman of the Committee's Subcommittee on Asian and Pacific Affairs (2001-2006). In addition, Mr. Leach is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the Vice Chairman of the Century Foundation's Board of Trustees and has served on the boards of the Social Sciences Research Council, ProPublica, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and the Kettering Foundation. Since leaving Congress in 2007, he has taught at Princeton University and served as the interim director of the Institute of Politics at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government.
Leach was one of the most prominent Republicans to endorse Obama for president last year. He was rumored to be under consideration for a diplomatic position when Obama sent him to speak with foreign leaders in Washington shortly after the presidential election. The National Endowment for the Humanities seems like a perfect fit for Leach.
Congressman Dave Loebsack, who defeated Leach in the 2006 election, released this statement today:
"As a native son of Iowa, Jim Leach has served Iowa proudly and with dignity for over three decades, and I applaud President Obama's choice. The National Endowment for the Humanities makes critical contributions to the rich cultural tapestry of our country, and with Jim Leach's experience, expertise, and dedication, I have no doubt that our nation's museums, libraries, and cultural institutions will continue to grow and excel."
Loebsack and Leach have set a fantastic example for politicians everywhere by speaking about each other with respect, both during and since the 2006 campaign.
Congressman Bruce Braley released this statement:
"President Obama couldn't have made a better choice than Jim Leach to chair the National Endowment for the Humanities. There are few individuals as qualified or as well-suited for this position as he is. I'm proud that Davenport's own Jim Leach will be continuing to serve the public in this capacity after his long and distinguished career representing the citizens of eastern Iowa."
I was raised by a Rockefeller Republican who believed in funding the arts and humanities and cringed when well-known Republicans demonized the National Endowment for the Arts in the 1980s and 1990s. Leach's commitment to supporting the humanities will serve him well in his new job.