Kael Weston // Democrat // Congressional District 2
1. How have the arts, culture, and/or humanities impacted your life?
The arts, culture, and humanities have played a key and ongoing role in my life and work for many years -- in Utah and overseas. Most directly: I'm an author and teacher at the college level. My first book, The Mirror Test, was published in 2016 (see www.jkweston.com for more book-specific information, including an interview I was fortunate to do with NPR's Terry Gross). I continue to write, believing words are an important form of public service -- monthly for the SL Tribune, on topics ranging from the Affordable Care Act to bridging political divides in our country, and for the New York Times among other papers. In my classes at Westminster and the University of Utah, I have prioritized literature and documentaries -- asking students to read poetry, for example, by Afghan women; having them watch a film about WWII ... from the Japanese perspective or Vietnamese perspective; encouraging them to understand the Cold War by listening to European music: 99 Red Balloons by Nena and Sting's Russians. In my Marine Corps University classes I ask Marines to read accounts of slavery written by slaves and and read WWI poets and explore in detail DaDa art (Grosz) -- how conflict flows from war and, ideally, can help reduce the chances for more war. In Afghanistan and Iraq, where I served seven consecutive years while in the State Department, I prioritized projects for Afghan and Iraqi students that were education and culture-focused: getting them internships in cultural ministries. I learned that building people -- that is, building human capital -- was a much better strategy than having our government buy more rifles and bullets. Before deciding to run in Utah's 2nd Congressional District, I had begun work on a second book on moral courage. I still consider myself to be a Writer-Candidate. Words written. Words spoken. They all matter and I take them seriously. War taught me that it is the artists we must find and support -- and listen to. One quote that has stayed with me: Who sees the human face correctly: the photographer, the mirror, or the painter? I'd add ... or maybe the poet or the writer. Or all? Music also got me through the worst days of the biggest battle in the Iraq war in Fallujah.
2. Utah's humanities and arts employ 123,000 Utahns, provide $4.4 billion in earnings, and $13.2 billion in sales. This is a larger economic impact than agriculture, mining, and real estate. Do you consider the arts and cultural sector an economic driver in Utah?
3. I support the following federal agencies and will work to increase fiscally responsible investment in them:
-National Endowment for the Arts
-National Endowment for the Humanities
-Institute of Museum and Library Services
-Corporation for Public Broadcasting
4. If I win, I will join the following cultural caucuses:
5. Forgivable loans available from the Small Business Administration have been vitally important to helping the cultural industry recover from COVID-19:
I support increasing federal funding in SBA COVID loans and keeping them open for nonprofits.
6. Fiscally responsible government investment in the arts and humanities (including humanities and arts education) means to me:
I believe government investment is crucial. And given the size of our federal budget, affordable and would be a top priority for me in Congress. I already have a track record of helping prioritize State Department funds towards arts and humanities. In one province in eastern Afghanistan, I made sure students and art projects were not neglected.
7. Anything else we should know about you?
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