Ken Burns, Live from the Sheldon


Our blog has become a little bit of a shrine to Ken Burns over the last few days, some might call it extreme but I’d call it well-deserved recognition. In the film world, Burns is recognized for how he’s changed documentary film but for public broadcasting Burns isn’t just our biggest celebrity, he’s also one of our biggest cheerleaders. During his visit on Monday I was really struck by his personal commitment to informative television. He reminded me that television, public or not, has the power to do more than entertain, it informs and even educates.

To that end, The War really does both. The brief hour’s worth of clips shown at the Sheldon Monday night captivated me. It might have been because I was in a room filled with veterans and World War II fanatics or because Burns himself was standing about 10 feet away from me but I was really moved. It wasn’t just me. Some of the audience members were teary-eyed during the hour screening. Others, during the Q & A session with Burns following the screening, asked about how to reach out the veterans in their lives. Every few minutes, the audience would burst into applause.

The icing on the cake came toward the end of the evening. One of the audience members asked Burns what made the World War II generation, the greatest generation, so unique: sacrifice. Burns said that our country uniquely banded together in the spirit of sacrifice not for a race, a religion, or national conquest but for an idea. Whether you call it liberty or freedom or by some other name, our citizens traded personal sacrifice for a collective identity. That’s pretty powerful stuff.

To see selections from the evening with Ken Burns webcast, visit our website at


One Response to “Ken Burns, Live from the Sheldon”

  1. Sharon Boyd-Davis Says:

    I was glad Mr. Burn defined the “greatest generation” by their sacrifice. I also agree sacrifice was the key to their greatness. I recently wrote a tribute to my grandfather for a book being published, and I also referred to ‘the sacrifices’ as defining that generation.

    Excerpt: “The men and women who fought during World War II have been referred to as the “Greatest Generation.” A generation of people who have lost everything and still managed to hold on to their beliefs and common sense. The selfless actions taken to aid others by these brave soldiers, who had no promise of reward, cannot be rivaled. This elite generation consisted of a diverse group of individuals. There were the upper echelon, the poor immigrants, the proud farmers, the African Americans, the Native Americans, and a host of others. From this “melting pot” of citizens comes the common bond of patriotism. This bond was a driving force behind the determination and the will to overcome the spread of evil.” “There was no political outcry by the thousands protesting our mission, instead men rising above there own limitations to secure our freedoms.” “What other generation has rose above their diverse backgrounds, economic disaster, ethinic prejudice, and moral consciousness. This group of individuals pulled together for a cause that was greater than themselves. The amount of patriotism and bravery distributed by these average citizens, has yet to be challenged.” “As a country, we sacrificed together for a greater good. I don’t think we will ever see that number of selfless sacrifices again.”

    My grandfather, Teddy Sutherland, served during World War II in L Company of the 324th Infantry Regiment of the 44th Division under Lieutenant General Alexander M. Patch, Commanding General of the U. S. Seventh Army.

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