As an 11-term congressman from Indiana, Brademas left an historic legacy that altered this nation’s cultural and educational landscape. He was principal sponsor of legislation that created the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities in 1965, as well as co-sponsor of Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965. These are two of the many laws and bills he sponsored during his time in Congress, which he left after his re-election defeat 1980 to become president of New York University (NYU). He retired as president emeritus in 1992 from NYU and two-years later became the chair of the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities (PCAH).
His passion for the arts and the humanities and education never waned during his tenure with the President’s Committee. At a time when both the arts and humanities endowments budgets had been drastically reduced in 1996 and were threatened with elimination, Brademas and the PCAH were outlining a plan to reinvigorate cultural support systems for the coming new century in a set of recommendations to President Clinton entitled Creative America. Under his leadership he launched Coming Up Taller, the nation’s highest honor for out of school arts and humanities programs. Now known as the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program, it has recognized some 924 diverse programs (259 Awardees and 665 Finalists) throughout the United States and internationally with some $2.59 million in support, making a highly visible and powerful statement about the value of arts education.
In remarks made at the first Coming Up Taller ceremony, Brademas succinctly summarized PCAH’s leadership role saying, “You are embarking on a project not only of immense importance, but one which admirably fulfills the mission of the President’s Committee. It clearly creates much needed partnerships between the public and private sectors to enhance America’s cultural life, and more than that, it turns a spotlight on an area in need of attention: the education of the country’s at-risk youth.”
“On behalf of the all the members of the President’s Committee, we express our indebtedness to one of this nation’s great cultural leaders, who during his tenure at PCAH exemplified the spirit of one of the most creative places in the federal government,” said Megan Beyer, executive director of the PCAH.