Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Dream Job #2: Why I Am Qualified to Chair the NEA

Ah, Wednesday, when part of our nation will be watching the first of the presidential debates tonight.  I confess that I likely will not.  It's hard for me to stay awake when the TV is on, even when we're watching something that's riveting.  Will this debate be riveting?  Time will tell.

Still, as the debates have approached, and with all the various job drama of my own setting, I've been thinking about various government jobs.  I have realized that I'm the perfect candidate to lead the National Endowment for the Arts.

Here's why:

--I'm used to working with no budget. 

--In fact, I'm so used to working with no budget that I have perfected the art of asking for money, being told no, explaining why it's important, being told no, and staying my charming self through the whole process.

--Not only am I used to working with no budget, but I'm also quite good at making amazing events happen even though I have no money.

--I have no specific examples to offer in proof of that last statement, but I'm a poet, so I'm sure it's true.

--Like Dana Gioia, I have been a poet who has worked in the belly of the corporate beast.  I am not a sheltered academic who has never had to think about profit margins or shareholder profits.  I am not an artist with a trust fund who has never had to worry about money.

--I shall take a brief moment while you recover from the laughing fit inspired by the words "sheltered academic" and "artist with a trust fund."

--Much of my life as an administrator involves saying no.  I imagine that much of my life as the Chair of the NEA would involve saying no.

--But I do delight in figuring out ways to say yes to worthy projects.  I love figuring out ways to say yes more often.

--I'm used to working with disparate groups of people, as the Chair of the NEA would need to be.  I imagine days of talking to Congress people, meetings with people who might fund grants, going to arts events.  That kind of day would make me happy. 

--I'm used to finding ways to get us to consensus.  I understand the importance of getting everyone's buy-in.

--I also understand that there will be times that consensus isn't possible.  I have learned to live with that.

--Some have called me "brutally efficient."  Some say this in awed tones, as if to offer me a compliment.  Some tell me this as criticism.

--Every organization needs one or two people who are brutally efficient.  It helps if the brutally efficient people have a visionary streak.

--On good days, I have a visionary streak.

--I'm not just a poet.  Various art forms appeal to me.  I understand that the NEA needs to minister to a variety of artists.

--I'm now solidly middle-aged.  I know how to dress the part of Chair of the NEA.  I will not show up looking like a bit player in a reality TV show with too much flesh on ill-advised display.  I promise to only wear my punk outfits in private or for Halloween.  I will not dress in ways that scare people.

--I'm not afraid of travel.  I would serve the whole U.S., and I'd be happy to travel to various parts of the country to talk about the importance of the arts and to discover what's going on beyond D.C.

--I don't need much sleep.  Or perhaps it would be more correct to say I've gotten used to operating on less sleep.

--I don't need much sleep or money.  What more do I need to say to convince you that I'm the one who should be your Chair of the NEA?

--I realize that I'm of North European descent, German and Scottish mainly.  I understand that it would be desirable to have a minority presence at the head of the NEA.  I am a woman, a different underrepresented group.  Perhaps that would be enough?

--I have friends and family in the D.C. area who could help me when it's time to move to D.C.

--I understand that we already have a Chair of the NEA, and I'm not suggesting that he needs to be replaced.  But all Chairs step down at some point.  When that happens, I'm ready to go at a moment's notice. 

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