Patricia Arquette

My 5 Minutes with the President

Patricia Arquette was in Washington this week to represent The Creative Coalition at the White House’s Champions of Change initiative. 

For her role as Allison Dubois on the critically acclaimed series “Medium,” Arquette has received numerous accolades, including the Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series, and many subsequent Emmy, Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild nominations. The granddaughter of comedian Cliff Arquette (best known for his television personality Charlie Weaver), Arquette comes from a family ensconced in the entertainment industry. Her father was actor Lewis Arquette and her siblings — Rosanna, Alexis, Richmond and David — are all actors.

Arquette recently wrapped shooting Patricia Riggen’s “See If I Care” opposite Eva Mendes. Her feature film credits include Richard Linklater’s “12 Year Movie aka Boyhood,” “Holes,” “The Badge” and “Little Nicky.” Arquette has worked with a stellar list of directors in such critically acclaimed films as: Martin Scorsese’s “Bringing Out the Dead,” Rupert Wainwright’s “Stigmata,” Sean Penn’s “The Indian Runner,” John Madden’s “Ethan Frome,” Tony Scott’s “True Romance,” Tim Burton’s “Ed Wood,” David O. Russell’s “Flirting With Disaster,” John Boorman’s “Beyond Rangoon,” “Lost Highway” (in a dual role for David Lynch), Steven Frears’s “Hi Lo Country” and Roland Jaffe’s “Goodbye Lover.” Among Arquette’s TV movie credits is “Wildflower,” directed by Diane Keaton, for which Arquette earned a CableAce Award as Best Lead Actress.

Last spring, after visiting Haiti and seeing firsthand the destruction caused by the devastating earthquake that hit the island, Arquette started up the charity GiveLove (www.givelove.org) to help provide victims with sustainable housing and assist in rebuilding communities in the aftermath of the disaster.

Robin Bronk: If you had five minutes in the Oval Office with President Obama, what would you discuss with him? What issue would you like him to know about?

Patricia Arquette: I would talk about funding for the arts. I think my own greatest moments not related to my children or being in love have probably been making art. I’d share with him how I was able to find myself in finding my artistic voice. How through the arts, I found a place where I excelled in school, when I didn’t in other subjects. Arts are a mode of communication in humanity. When I go to an exhibit, I look at the works of art and marvel at how each one of us sees the world so differently. The mediums that we choose to portray the world, and the different paints and pigments or mixed media—it’s incredible what our species can make just for beauty and humanity. I would hate a world without art. It would be a horrible world to live in.

On a more pragmatic side, I would remind the president that entertainment is America’s No. 2 export. Why, then, do we subsidize many of our other exports exponentially more than arts? Our arts budget is smaller than the city of Berlin’s art budget — not Germany’s art budget, not Europe’s art budget, but just the city of Berlin’s art budget. Every dollar spent on the arts brings many more dollars of taxable income back into our country.  We need inventive, artistic engineers who are going to make more incredible products like the iPod, which has generated billions of dollars.

It’s just stupid not to invest in the arts.

RB: If you could ask President Obama one question, what would that be? 

PA: I would have so many questions, because I do feel like he came in at a particularly difficult time. I do feel like everybody in the government at that moment did help us from going into what could have been a really major depression. And I think it’s been very difficult for a lot of people — a longer difficulty, but maybe not as severe as it could have been. I would ask him, Why haven’t you been more ballsy about issues that aren’t of high economic cost but pay dividends in social welfare — like gay marriage and “Don’t ask, don’t tell” and things like that? And why hasn’t the ERA ever passed? Why don’t women in this country have equal rights under the law — insurance companies can charge us more money because we’re women, because we’re told, “Our uteruses are a pre-existing condition.” America can’t go out into the world and talk about its leadership and equal rights and not have equal rights for gay citizens or women. Dang it!

RB: What book would you offer to lend President Obama, and why?

PA: What book would I offer? I don’t want to give the president a book to read. I just want him to think about what we just talked about.

RB: If you were going to send the president to one place in the United States for one day, where would that be and why?

PA: I might send him to man one of the suicide-prevention lines for gay, lesbian and transgender youth, because they have the highest mortality rate of all teenagers.

RB: Would you ever consider a political career?

PA: No, I’ve been naked in too many movies.

Bronk is a seasoned Capitol Hill strategist and advocate. She started her career at The Creative Coalition, a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy group for the arts and entertainment industry, in July 1998. During her tenure as CEO, Bronk has taken The Creative Coalition from a New York-based entity to a national organization. www.thecreativecoalition.org