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Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Our Greatest Achievement

“Read. The book is still the greatest manmade machine of all – not the car, not the TV, not the computer or the smartphone...Do not allow our social media to segregate us into ever smaller tribes and clans, fiercely and sometimes appropriately loyal to our group, but also capable of metastasizing into profound distrust of the other.” – Ken Burns

Burns, noted for his many outstanding, award-winning films, made those comments in a 2015 commencement speech to the graduating class at Washington University in St. Louis, essentially adding speechwriter and speaker to his already impressive resumé.

Born in Brooklyn, NY, in 1953, Burns has produced over 30 major films and documentary series including  *The Civil War (winner of more than 40 awards); The National Parks: America's Best Idea; and The Vietnam War.   He also is credited with developing a filming technique known as “The Ken Burns Effect,” giving life to still photographs by slowly zooming in on subjects of interest and panning from one subject to another.  This year his newest film is on Country Music, and in 2020 he is focusing on the great writer Ernest Hemingway.

Burns has been a lifelong avid supporter of education, libraries and the arts.  “Insist that we support science and the arts, especially the arts,” Burns said.  “They have nothing to do with the actual defense of the country – they just make the country worth defending.”

*The Civil War features a distinctive melody throughout called "Ashokan Farewell,” a haunting song that embodies that terrible struggle and its effect on our nation and perhaps best on display in a scene featuring a letter by combatant Sullivan Ballou.  Ken Burns’ amazing filmmaking skills and this beautiful song can be heard and seen at this YouTube link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1VK1KcZoDu0

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