Recently, Sharp Literacy, an organization devoted to the educational flourishment of urban children held a fundraiser at the Pfister. Actor LeVar Burton, who hosted all 26 years of Reading Rainbow on PBS spoke.
“My mom’s about four foot ten and a half,
weighs about a buck and a quarter.
I’m fifty-seven years old
and to this day
I am still afraid of this woman
when I was a kid she was both father and mother
she held and set the standards.
I am the man I am
because my mother
is the woman she is.
Two of the most potent words
That which we focus our imaginations upon
is what we tend to manifest as well.
That’s how it works.
Because of Star Trek
today we have the Bluetooth,
I’m sorry to tell you
there aren’t any pockets in the future
I’ve been there.
We had no pockets
on our spacesuits.
Everything happens for a reason, y’all
there are no accidents in this universe*
I got a call
“I know you’ve never done a television series
but would you be interested in doing a new Star Trek series?”
I had one question only,
“Is Gene Roddenberry involved?”
Gene was a huge, huge hero of mine,
Gene was not just a visionary
he was a social scientist,
an advocate for civil rights.
Gene taught me:
in order to be a complete storyteller
it is necessary to move the culture forward.
Star Trek was responsible
for the first interracial kiss
on network television.
Gene was also a man
on seeing women in short skirts in the future.
You see we’re all human.
There is a dichotomy that exists in humanity
sometimes difficult to resolve.
insisted we make the choice
between teaching our kids how to read
and fostering in them a love of the written word
in a healthy society
we don’t make that choice.
3,000 seniors drop out of high school
almost every day
Most of them are poor readers.
We have spent an inordinate amount of money
in the past ten years on war and machineries.
We have sacrificed our children
and for me that’s not okay.
If any of you ever hear of LeVar Burton
running for public office
you have my permission to slap him upside his head.
When I met Fred Rogers for the first time
I was so excited because I thought
“Finally, I’m going to meet the man behind the Mr. Rodgers Personae.”
I did not believe that anyone could be that nice
but as it turns out
Fred was Fred. Always.
No matter where he was
or who he was engaged in conversation with
he was consistent.
We were once together at the White House
for a conference on children education in television.
When you fill a room with Washington politicos
and Hollywood egos
there’s hardly room to breathe
so Fred encouraged us all in the room
to close our eyes
for thirty seconds,
remember a teacher who had impact
on us in a very profound and personal way
and ladies and gentlemen,
everybody in that room
from the president of the united states,
to the heads of networks,
everyone closed their eyes
and engaged in the exercise.
I know because I peeked.
No one can become all that they are meant to be
they are a lifelong learner.
The key to becoming a lifelong learner
is to be a reader
*Mr. Burton emphasized this point, repeating it four times throughout his speech.