Bess Lomax Hawes
Director of the Folk Arts Program of the National Endowment for the Arts
The North American continent has long been hospitable to immigrants--to the first Americans, to Hispanics, to French, to Russians, to English; to Africans, Irish, Jews, Scandinavians, Chinese, Germans; to the homeless, to the hungry, to the rebellious, to the adventurous of the world. The rolling North American land has been broad enough to nourish us all.
Still, none of our settlers came here empty-handed. Each people who undertook the frightening journey to this new land brought with them both mother-wit and know-how as well as their own special part of the vast, centuries-old encyclopedia of particular human solutions to the inescapable human problems. Human beings long ago learned how to take an oak tree and make out of it not only something useful but something beautiful--a carved front door, a woven basket. Human beings long ago learned how to take a melody and make of it a hymn of praise or a song of love, to take a personal experience and turn it into a classic joke or an epic ballad.