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President Obama sends handwritten apology to Texas art history professor

"Let me apologize for my off-the-cuff remarks. I was making a point about the jobs market, not the value of art history," Obama wrote.

By
Evan Bleier
U.S. President Barack Obama signs three bills into law on the Resolute Desk inside the Oval Office at the White House November 27, 2013 (File/UPI/Chip Somodevilla/Pool)
U.S. President Barack Obama signs three bills into law on the Resolute Desk inside the Oval Office at the White House November 27, 2013 (File/UPI/Chip Somodevilla/Pool) | License Photo

AUSTIN, Texas, Feb. 19 (UPI) -- After President Obama took a slight shot at the value of an art history degree, a University of Texas at Austin art history professor sent him an email.

To Ann Collins Jones’ surprise, she got a response -- a handwritten apology note on White House stationary from the president himself.

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“Ann --

Let me apologize for my off-the-cuff remarks. I was making a point about the jobs market, not the value of art history. As it so happens, art history was one of my favorite subjects in high school, and it has helped me take in a great deal of joy in my life that I might otherwise have missed.

So please pass on my apology for the glib remark to the entire department, and understand that I was trying to encourage young people who may not be predisposed to a four year college experience to be open to technical training that can lead them to an honorable career.

Sincerely,

Barack Obama”

Here’s the comment that originally drew Jones’ ire:

“[A] lot of young people no longer see the trades and skilled manufacturing as a viable career. But I promise you, folks can make a lot more, potentially, with skilled manufacturing or the trades than they might with an art history degree,” Obama said. “Now, nothing wrong with an art history degree -- I love art history. So I don't want to get a bunch of emails from everybody.”

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The professor chose to focus on the first part of Obama’s statement instead of the second and fired off an email. According to Jones, she doesn’t have the original email because she posted it to the White House’s website, but this is how she described it to Hyperallergic:

“However, I’m pretty sure that my email was not so much one of outrage at his statement, but rather a ‘look at what we do well’ statement. I emphasized that we challenge students to think, read, and write critically. I also stressed how inclusive our discipline is these days (even though my own specialty is medieval and Renaissance Italy).”

After the kind response, Jones sounds as if she feels badly about sending the email. “What I did NOT expect is that THE MAN HIMSELF would write me an apology. So now I’m totally guilty about wasting his time,” she posted on Facebook.

[Inside Higher Ed] [Hyperallergic]

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