Ken Burns Profile Photo

Ken Burns

Keynote Speaker

Historian and Award-Winning Filmmaker

One of the most recognizable and popular documentary filmmakers of our time, Ken Burns chronicles those aspects of U.S. history that make us uniquely American.

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Ken Burns'S SPEAKING FEE Over $70,000

Ken Burns Profile Photo

Ken Burns'S SPEAKING FEE Over $70,000

Ken Burns has been making documentary films for over forty years.  Since the Academy Award nominated Brooklyn Bridge in 1981, Ken has gone on to direct and produce some of the most acclaimed historical documentaries ever made, including The Civil War; Baseball; Jazz; The War; The National Parks:  America’s Best Idea; The Roosevelts:  An Intimate HistoryJackie Robinson; The Vietnam War; and Country Music.

A December 2002 poll conducted by Real Screen Magazine listed The Civil War as second only to Robert Flaherty’s Nanook of the North as the “most influential documentary of all time,” and named Ken Burns and Robert Flaherty as the “most influential documentary makers” of all time. In March 2009, David Zurawik of The Baltimore Sun said, “… Burns is not only the greatest documentarian of the day, but also the most influential filmmaker period. That includes feature filmmakers like George Lucas and Steven Spielberg. I say that because Burns not only turned millions of persons onto history with his films, he showed us a new way of looking at our collective past and ourselves.” The late historian Stephen Ambrose said of his films, “More Americans get their history from Ken Burns than any other source.” And Wynton Marsalis has called Ken “a master of timing, and of knowing the sweet spot of a story, of how to ask questions to get to the basic human feeling and to draw out the true spirit of a given subject.”  

Future film projects include Muhammad Ali, Benjamin Franklin, The Holocaust and the United States, The American Buffalo, Leonardo da Vinci, The American RevolutionEmancipation to Exodus, and LBJ & the Great Society, among others.

Ken’s films have been honored with dozens of major awards, including sixteen Emmy Awards, two Grammy Awards and two Oscar nominations; and in September of 2008, at the News & Documentary Emmy Awards, Ken was honored by the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences with a Lifetime Achievement Award.

Featured Videos

Ken Burns Profile Photo
Ken Burns
TODAY: Ken Burns, Tom Brokaw Talk About ‘Mayo Clinic’ Documentary
Ken Burns Profile Photo
Ken Burns
PBS News: Why America is still raw over the Vietnam War

Ken Burns’s Speech Topics

  • Vietnam War Speech (Title TK)

    Burns tries to make sense of the most important and most consequential event in American History since World War II. Here competing viewpoints and perspectives are balanced to give us a chance to finally come to terms with this important conflict.

  • Roosevelt Speech

    A detailed and intimate look at three hugely influential, but deeply flawed and wounded people, who are Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Eleanor Roosevelt—their lives, but also their times.

  • A Treasure House of Nature’s Superlatives

    Burns discusses the great gift of our national parks.  Here both “the immensity and the intimacy of time” merge, as we appreciate what the parks have added to our collective and individual spirit.  Begins with a 13-minute clip (the intro to The National Parks: America’s Best Idea).

  • Sharing the American Experience

    Ken Burns reminds the audience of the timeless lessons of history, and the enduring greatness and importance of the United States in the course of human events.  Incorporating The Civil War, Baseball and Jazz, Burns engages and celebrates what we share in common.  No clips.

  • No Ordinary Lives

    Drawing on some of Lincoln's most stirring words as inspiration, this speech engages the paradox of war by following the powerful themes in two of Ken Burns's best known works–“The Civil War”, his epic retelling of the most important event in American history, and “The War”, his intensely moving story of WWII told through the experiences of so-called ordinary people from four geographically distributed American towns.  Opens with Norah Jones 5-minute “American Anthem” clip from The War.

  • Mystic Chords of Memory

    The Civil War continues to be the most important event in American history.  In this eloquent address, Burns paints both an intimate and bird’s eye view of the searing events of the years 1861 through 1865 and the war’s profound relevance to us today.  (Civil War intro if requested.)

  • American Lives

    This combines the biographies of some of Ken’s most fascinating subjects, including Thomas Jefferson, Lewis and Clark, Frank Lloyd Wright, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, and Mark Twain.  He shares how biography works, and gives insight into the storytelling process.  No clips.

  • Conversation with Ken Burns

    This is a less formal, Inside-the-Actors-Studio type of event. Burns responds to questions from moderator on all his films (or film-specific) and issues in history and contemporary American culture. Audience Q&A to conclude if requested.

What other organizations say about Ken Burns

Ken was one of the nicest speakers we’ve ever had. He was very easy to work with and spent a gracious amount of time with anyone who asked. He was very well received at the event, reception and book signing. All were well attended.

Universities & Colleges

Works by Ken Burns


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