Speaking for the fourth time at the Celebrity Forum Speakers Series, documentary filmmaker Ken Burns focused on the story of America’s natural treasures in his appearances last month.
In his March 27 introduction, series founder Dick Henning noted that many Americans get their history primarily from Burns’ historical films for PBS, including “The Civil War,” “Baseball,” “Jazz,” “The West,” “The War” and his latest, the topic of the discussion, “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea.”
Burns opened with a 12-minute film on National Parks.
“It’s the power of history with its varied voices,” he said. “There is no better subject to make than the history of our National Parks.”
According to Burns, National Parks are as uniquely American as the Declaration of Independence and should be preserved for everyone. Americans from every background and region of the country have fallen in love with the parks and contributed their time and money to preserve them, he added.
Burns’ crew filmed at Yellowstone National Park, the first National Park. They captured its beauty and important inhabitants: grizzly bears, wolves, bison and elk.
Burns reminisced about his first visit to a National Park.
“I remember in 1959, when I was 6 years old, my father took me to Shenandoah National Park in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. With fog and mist hugging the road, we saw a beautiful new world. He held my hand at the waterfall,” he recalled. “Years later, you can remember how great this was with your dad. National Parks are for families. It’s where you take the family for a holiday. We could be walking in a cathedral of time.”
Discussing his visits to different Alaska parks to capture their grandeur in photographs, Burns inserted a touch of humor.
“Alaska took us in, and we will never forget those beautiful features – but we never saw Russia,” he said.
National Parks require co-ownership for continued preservation.
“What would happen if there were no National Parks?” Burns asked. “Yosemite would be a gated community. It’s not what you take away, but what you can put in for posterity and your children.”
Following his presentation, Burns answered questions from the audience.
Asked about documentaries he is considering for the future, Burns offered a full slate of upcoming productions. They include: “The Address,” the story of a small, private Vermont boarding school for boys 9-16 with learning disabilities; “The Roosevelts: An Intimate History,” spotlighting Theodore, Franklin and Eleanor; “Jackie Roblinson”; “The TET Offensive”; “Country Music”; and part 2 of “Ernest Hemingway.”
For more information on the speaker series, visit www.celebrityforum.net.