Obama Apologizes to an Art Historian for His Jab About the Discipline

President Obama has sent a handwritten apology to an art historian at the University of Texas at Austin who wrote to him to defend her discipline after he joked last month about the value of art-history degrees, according to the art blog Hyperallergic.

Mr. Obama made the remark during a speech about job training, saying, “folks can make a lot more, potentially, with skilled manufacturing or the trades than they might with an art-history degree.”

Ann Collins Johns, a senior lecturer in the university’s department of art and art history, wrote a letter to Mr. Obama through the White House’s website shortly after he made the joke, which upset many in higher education. She told the blog she had emphasized what art historians do well, and told the president that art historians push students to read and write critically.

Ms. Johns later received a response from Mr. Obama on White House letterhead, which was scanned and sent to her by email.

“Let me apologize for my off-the-cuff remarks,” Mr. Obama wrote, according to a copy of the letter that Ms. Johns shared with the blog. “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,” the letter continued, “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.”

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