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Jim Leach begins tenure as head of National Endowment for the Humanities

August 13, 2009 |  1:15 pm

Jim-Leach-confirmed It's been less than a week since Jim Leach was confirmed by the Senate for the top position at the National Endowment for the Humanities. Wasting little time, the Princeton professor -- and former congressman -- officially began his new job today.

Leach was sworn in as the ninth chairman of the NEH in a ceremony in Washington, D.C., where he took the opportunity to lay out a "bridging cultures" theme for his tenure.

"It is imperative that cultural differences at home and abroad be respectfully understood rather than irrationally denigrated," he said to his staff in a town hall meeting.

We find ourselves living in an era "where declining civility increasingly hallmarks domestic politics and where anarchy has taken root in many parts of the world,"  he said.

In an e-mail to Culture Monster last week, Leach said his goal during his tenure "is to emphasize support for programs that help bridge cultural divides at home as well as abroad. Culture and its diversity should ennoble rather than serve as a threat to the human experience."

Leach spent 30 years as a Republican congressman representing southeastern Iowa. During the 2008 presidential election, he broke with party ranks to support Barack Obama.

Most recently, he taught at Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School as well as at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government.

-- David Ng

Photo: Jim Leach, the new chairman of the NEH. Credit: Associated Press

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