A first-generation college student. A cancer survivor. A public broadcasting veteran.
U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison brought the group together Monday to outline potential effects of President Donald Trump's proposed budget, which would slash funding for programs from environmental protection to the arts.
"What we're talking about today is really deadly serious," the Minnesota Democrat said at a news conference at the Minneapolis Urban League.
While the Trump administration has pitched the $1.15 trillion budget as a necessary reduction of some government agencies, most of the people who spoke Monday said federal cuts would hamstring the organizations they lead.
Jim Pagliarini, president and CEO of Twin Cities Public Television, said he realized the impact of public broadcasting in college, when he was working with the late Fred Rogers.
"If funding is zeroed out for public TV and radio, it will go away," he said.
David Fraher, president and CEO of the nonprofit Arts Midwest, said the work his organization does would not be possible without funds from the National Endowment for the Arts. Programs that would be affected range from dance therapy for veterans to funds that connect students across the state with Twin Cities theaters, he said.
"These are not projects aimed only at serving the well-to-do, or the so-called 'elites,' " Fraher said. "They are programs for our neighbors, our families, our friends and our children."
Trump's budget outline makes cuts to many programs to pay for increased spending on defense and national security. The White House has said the budget makes good on a campaign pledge to downsize the federal government, a key goal of many Republicans in Congress.
Multiple speakers noted cuts to environmental programs and research could negatively impact public health, from hampering the state's ability to enforce the Clean Air Act to endangering restoration of the Great Lakes. Karen Laumb, a St. Louis Park resident and cancer survivor, said federal investment in cancer research "has literally meant the difference between life and death for me," and expressed concern about proposed cuts to the National Institutes of Health.
Erika Hernandez, a Minneapolis Community and Technical College student who benefits from federal programs that serve underrepresented students, said cuts to those programs would compromise her education.
"As a first-generation student, my parents always told me: 'What's going to get you somewhere is education,' " Hernandez said. "It's really sad to see that we're going backwards instead of moving forward."