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SDHC Shares Humanities Success Stories in D.C.

March 16, 2024

Three representatives of the South Dakota Humanities Council shared stories of the organization’s impact with the state’s Congressional delegation in Washington, D.C., during Humanities on the Hill, March 5-6.

SDHC Interim Executive Director Jennifer Widman, Board Chair Bobbie Bohlen, and Chair-Elect Stephen Williamson traveled to the nation’s capital to meet with Representative Dusty Johnson and staffers from the offices of Senators John Thune and Mike Rounds. The visits allow SDHC to share the impact of funds appropriated for the National Endowment for the Humanities and sent directly to state councils via the Federal/State Partnership.

“Our primary goals at Humanities on the Hill are to thank the members of our delegation for their support of the federal funding we receive and to demonstrate that we have been good stewards of that funding,” Widman said. “With these visits, we can show that our programs have reached communities of all sizes in all corners of the state and that we let local groups take the lead in designing activities that are especially relevant to the people and places they serve.”

The group shared information about the scope of SDHC projects, which in 2023 served 105 communities and 69,591 individuals through 280 unique grants and programs. They also delivered copies of the 2024 One Book South Dakota, Little and Often by Trent Preszler, and other featured books. The representatives and staffers were impressed by the tremendous reach and impact of humanities programs across the state.

“Nearly all of the staffers we meet with are South Dakota natives, so naturally they love to see what SDHC has done in their hometowns,” Widman said. “But they’re also amazed by the variety of projects we fund statewide, as well as the quality of events we produce ourselves, like the annual Festival of Books.”

The visits also provide an opportunity to discuss upcoming SDHC projects. For example, SDHC is beginning to consider programming for the United States Semiquincentennial, the 250th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, on July 4, 2026.

“Senator Rounds is a member of the Congressional America250 Caucus, so his staff is particularly interested in our plans to commemorate that milestone,” Widman said. “With state and national support, we aim to create a wide range of programs reflecting on the last 250 years through the eyes of all South Dakotans.”

The Federation of State Humanities Councils, which is SDHC’s parent organization, helps create the advocacy event in Washington and invites all humanities councils around the country to participate.

“Beyond meeting with our state’s delegation, we really benefit from gathering with our counterparts at humanities councils around the country,” Widman said. “After talking with them and learning about what they’re doing in their states and territories, we all come back home with new ideas and fresh energy.”

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