In extending the authorization for the National Foundation on the Arts and the Humanities Act -- originally passed during the Johnson administration, thus creating both the National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities -- Richard Nixon appended the following statement. Though his staff probably drafted the statement, the line about Athens might well have been the president's personal touch.
"Government has a vital role to play in encouraging the arts and humanities in our national life, and this Administration has continually reaffirmed its commitment to the fulfillment of that role through the National Foundation.
The purpose of the Foundation is not to alter the role of private patronage in the arts and humanities, but rather to supplement, stimulate, and extend that role. The Federal Government should do its part in supporting cultural activities -- and appropriations for the Foundation have increased almost sixfold since I took office...
The highest expression of the quality of a nation is found in the development of its arts and refinement of its humanistic concerns. For this development to reach its full potential, it must be the expression of a whole people, and it must be available for the enjoyment of the whole people. That was the lesson of Athens. That was the rationale for the National Foundation on the Arts and the Humanities."