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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.
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 History; Jackie 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 Revolution, Emancipation 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.
TODAY: Ken Burns, Tom Brokaw Talk About 'Mayo Clinic' Documentary
PBS News: Why America is still raw over the Vietnam War
Ken Burns' Speech Topics
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.
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.)
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.
Vietnam War Speech
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.
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.
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, Baseballand Jazz, Burns engages and celebrates what we share in common. No clips.
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).
Conversation with Ken Burns
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.Vanderbilt University
Works by Ken Burns
National Parks (opens in a new tab)
People Also Viewed
Best-Selling Author; Acclaimed Historian and Journalist; Professor of History, Tulane University