Ken Burns

Ken Burns

Speaker: Ken Burns

Award-Winning Documentary Filmmaker


  • The National Parks (A Treasure House of Nature’s Superlatives)
  • Sharing the American Experience
  • No Ordinary Lives
  • Mystic Chords of Memory
  • American Lives

An award-winning documentary filmmaker, Ken Burns has directed film projects such as The Civil War, Baseball, The West, The War, and The National Parks: America’s Best Idea, all of which were developed for PBS. The late historian Stephen Ambrose said, “More Americans get their history from Ken Burns than any other source.” While The New York Times has called Burns “the most accomplished filmmaker of his generation.”

Burns has several projects underway, including Dust Bowl, premiering November 2012. Burns’ 2011 PBS film, Prohibition, tells the story of the Eighteenth Amendment, and his 2010 film, The Tenth Inning, picks up where his 1994 epic Baseball left off, capturing the ugly, dark side of major league baseball in the 1990s and how the rise of performance drugs has reshaped America’s national pastime.

An eloquent keynote speaker, Ken Burns always address what we share in common, not what divides us. He discusses his famous trilogy of celebrated documentary films, The Civil War, Baseball, and Jazz, reveals the leadership models in the unexpectedly dramatic story of Lewis and Clark, delves into the complete and often contradictory lives of great American figures including Thomas Jefferson, Frank Lloyd Wright, and Mark Twain, and celebrates the achievements of the common soldier in The War.

“There is too much ‘pluribus’ these days,” Ken Burns says, “and not enough ‘unum.’ I’m in the business of ‘unum’.” He does this in his films, of course, but also in his equally acclaimed and riveting speeches before business and community audiences. Great oratory has all but disappeared from our public discourse, so it is indeed refreshing to have Burns remind us…words matter.

The National Parks (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 (45 to 50 minutes)

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 years1861 through 1865 and the war’s profound relevance to us today.

American Lives

This combines the biographies of some of Ken’s most fascinating subjects, including Thomas Jefferson, Lewis & Clark and Frank Lloyd Wright.  He shares how biography works, and gives insight into the storytelling process.  No clips.


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