Eliot Feld’s “Submarine Speech”

In 1981, the National Endowment for the Arts was threatened with a budget reduction by then President Ronald Reagan. Last week, President Trump proposed a budget in which the National Endowment for the Arts is eliminated. With that in mind, we post the below.


Eliot Feld’s Testimony before the House Appropriations Sub-Committee, Chairman Sidney Yates, 3/25/81.

Mr. Chairman, Members of the Committee –

The Reagan Administration’s proposed cut of endowment funds by 50%, resulting in a 5 million dollar reduction in support for dance, would be a calamity for dance, both as an art form and as an industry. The public has been assured that cuts in social programs will continue to provide a safety net for those who are truly in need. Yet it is a fact that dance in this country has never enjoyed the safety of a safety net – and the proposed 50% reduction in funding for dance threatens its basic vitality.

Perhaps – and I emphasize – perhaps, large dance institutions with influential boards of trustees and access to corporate and private foundations will survive this cutback, but many smaller companies and individual choreographers will not. This drastic and unprecedented reduction in support of the arts is a national policy that will blunt the cutting edge of dance in America.

Last week, CBS News covered the launching of the first of 37 atomic submarines. This submarine is 300 feet long and is reported to have cost One Million Dollars a foot. Although I may be in over my head in this area, still, I would like to provide to this committee three modest alternatives:

Alternative No. 1: If one submarine was reduced by a mere 5 feet, it would result in a 5 million dollar savings and support for dance could remain at its present level.

Alternative No. 2: If 5 submarines were reduced by just one foot – that is, to 299 feet each – support for dance could remain at its present level.

Alternative No. 3: If all 37 submarines were reduced by a mere 1 1⁄2 inches – that is, to 299 feet, 10 1/2 inches each – support for dance could remain at its present level.

I suggest these as only three of an infinite number of configurations, but I am convinced that a submarine fleet of 133,200 inches, as compared to a submarine fleet of 133,140 inches, would hardly be noticeable, since it is my experience that objects appear larger when submerged in water.

Mr. Chairman, the point of this naval whimsy is that what we are asking for on behalf of dance can be measured in inches.