A Poem By LeVar Burton

Posted by on Sep 28, 2014 | No Comments

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.

 

What if?

Two of the most potent words

in combination.

 

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,

cellphone

and iPad.

 

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

who insisted

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.

 

No Child Left Behind

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

in America.

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

he was.

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

unless

they are a lifelong learner.

The key to becoming a lifelong learner

is to be a reader

for life.”

 

*Mr. Burton emphasized this point, repeating it four times throughout his speech.

 

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Artist Sally Duback and 5-8th grade students at Lutheran Special School teamed up to make this mural through the school’s Sharp program.

It was also funded by baseball player Ryan Braun and his wife Larissa.  So the kids included him in the composition.

It was also funded by baseball player Ryan Braun and his wife Larissa. So the kids included him in the composition.

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11 kids drew the scene and then Duback projected it onto three panels that they covered in homemade tiles, shells and found objects like compact discs.

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Each panel weighs 75 pounds.

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Teacher, Jill Bell (whose outfit matches the mosaic) tells me that this was a wonderful opportunity for her students. Each one of them has a different learning disability.

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This is as good a picture I was able to get of LeVar Burton. Sunflowers and heads packed the room and view.

 

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