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Jill Cooper Udall among 16 resigning from president’s arts commission

Jill Cooper Udall, the wife of Democratic senator Tom Udall, is among 16 remaining members of the President’s Commission on Arts and Humanities who resigned their positions today in response to President Donald Trump’s remarks about racial violence in Charlottesville, Virginia last weekend.

In a sharply worded letter, the resigning commissioners said “reproach and censure” of the president were needed after he blamed both sides of the melee for violence that killed a woman who had come to protest a demonstration by white supremacists.

The resignations come the same week that Trump’s Manufacturing Council and Strategy and Policy Forum were disbanded by the White House  after a series of resignations by high-profile chief executive officers sitting on the boards, also because of Trump’s handling of the Charlottesville violence.

Jill Cooper Udall is a former Officer of Cultural Affairs for the state of New Mexico.

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“The false equivalencies you push cannot stand,” the letter said. “The Administration’s refusal to quickly and unequivocally condemn the cancer of hatred only further emboldens those who wish America ill. We cannot sit idly by, the way that your West Wing advisors have, without speaking out against your words and actions.”

The letter also said urges Trump to resign if he doesn’t change his tune.

“Supremacy, discrimination, and vitriol are not American values,” the letter says. “Your values are not American values. We must be better than this. We are better than this. If this is not clear to you, then we call on you to resign your office.”

The letter explained that the commission was created in 1982 under President Reagan to advise the White House on cultural issues. Most of the commission’s members were appointed by former President Barack Obama.

On Tuesday, Sen. Udall told KOAT-TV  in Albuquerque that Trump is “unfit” for the presidency.

The group’s full letter is below:

Dear Mr. President:

Reproach and censure in the strongest possible terms are necessary following your support of the hate groups and terrorists who killed and injured fellow Americans in Charlottesville. The false equivalencies you push cannot stand. The Administration’s refusal to quickly and unequivocally condemn the cancer of hatred only further emboldens those who wish America ill. We cannot sit idly by, the way that your West Wing advisors have, without speaking out against your words and actions. We are members of the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities (PCAH). The Committee was created in 1982 under President Reagan to advise the White House on cultural issues. We were hopeful that continuing to serve in the PCAH would allow us to focus on the important work the committee does with your federal partners and the private sector to address, initiate, and support key policies and programs in the arts and humanities for all Americans. Effective immediately, please accept our resignation from the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities.

Elevating any group that threatens and discriminates on the basis of race, gender, ethnicity, disability, orientation, background, or identity is un-American. We have fought slavery, segregation, and internment. We must learn from our rich and often painful history. The unified fabric of America is made by patriotic individuals from backgrounds as vast as the nation is strong. In our service to the American people, we have experienced this first-hand as we traveled and built the Turnaround Arts education program, now in many urban and rural schools across the country from Florida to Wisconsin.

Speaking truth to power is never easy, Mr. President. But it is our role as commissioners on the PCAH to do so. Art is about inclusion. The Humanities include a vibrant free press. You have attacked both. You released a budget which eliminates arts and culture agencies. You have threatened nuclear war while gutting diplomacy funding. The Administration pulled out of the Paris agreement, filed an amicus brief undermining the Civil Rights Act, and attacked our brave trans service members. You have subverted equal protections, and are committed to banning Muslims and refugee women & children from our great country. This does not unify the nation we all love. We know the importance of open and free dialogue through our work in the cultural diplomacy realm, most recently with the first-ever US Government arts and culture delegation to Cuba, a country without the same First Amendment protections we enjoy here. Your words and actions push us all further away from the freedoms we are guaranteed.

Ignoring your hateful rhetoric would have made us complicit in your words and actions. We took a patriotic oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.

Supremacy, discrimination, and vitriol are not American values. Your values are not American values. We must be better than this. We are better than this. If this is not clear to you, then we call on you to resign your office, too.

Thank you,
Paula Boggs 
Chuck Close
Richard Cohen 
Fred Goldring 
Howard L. Gottlieb 
Vicki Kennedy 
Jhumpa Lahiri 
Anne Luzzatto 
Thom Mayne 
Kalpen Modi (Kal Penn)
Eric Ortner 
Ken Solomon 
Caroline Taylor 
Jill Cooper Udall 
Andrew Weinstein 
John Lloyd Young
 

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