Press Release

                                 

NATIONAL CONSTITUTION CENTER, KEN BURNS AND PBS PARTNER TO SUPPORT “CIVILITY AND DEMOCRACY” INITIATIVE

Joint Initiative Launch Tied to National Constitution Center’s “Can We Talk? A Conversation about Civility and Democracy in America” Saturday, March 26 – Sunday, March 27, 2011  

(March 25, 2011) – Philadelphia, PA – David Eisner, President and CEO of the National Constitution Center (NCC), today joined filmmakers Ken Burns and Lynn Novick and Corporation for Public Broadcasting President Patricia Harrison to announce collaboration to foster a national conversation about “Civility and Democracy.”  

As part of the project, NCC and PBS station WETA Washington, DC will work together to develop educational materials and Web content connected to Burns’s and Novick’s upcoming film, PROHIBITION, which is scheduled to air this coming fall on PBS.  The film takes viewers beyond the oft-told tales of gangsters, flappers and speakeasies to experience the rise, rule and fall of the 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.  

Burns and Novick will work with WETA, PBS and the National Constitution Center to create station and public engagement tools around the theme of “Civility and Democracy,” and lead conversations about the issue in a multi-city tour that will take place this spring, summer and fall.

The announcement was made on the eve of “Can We Talk? A Conversation about Civility and Democracy in America” at the National Constitution Center on March 26th and 27th.  The conference is supported in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities’ Bridging Cultures program.  

Highlights from PROHIBITION will be incorporated into some of the Center’s workshops throughout the weekend.  Participants – along with the general public – will be provided an early look at the film the night of Friday, March 25th at the Center.

“The idea for ‘Can We Talk?’ is to engage in a national conversation about the role of civility in our democracy,” said National Constitution Center President and CEO David Eisner. “There can be no better partner to make this conversation meaningful and broad-based than one of America’s greatest storytellers, Ken Burns.”

“With each Ken Burns film, PBS works with local stations, such as WHYY in Philadelphia, one of our leading stations for civic engagement, and other partners to create a national conversation about issues as diverse as our parks, the experience of war, and America’s love of baseball,” said Paula Kerger, President and CEO of PBS.  “PROHIBITION is a remarkable film that will engage viewers around the country and just as importantly serve as a starting point for conversations in schools and at the dinner table. This partnership will help us provide even more tools to stations and community groups as Ken and Lynn travel the country over the months ahead.”

“There is no topic more important to the ongoing health of our republic than civility and democracy,” Ken Burns said.  “No period in American history is void of conflict.  There is no idyllic moment in American life.  But civility is essential to our ability as a nation to confront together difficult issues, even when we may disagree, and to continue to improve as a country.”

Patricia Harrison, the President and CEO of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which has partnered with WETA on station engagement and community outreach, said, “Ken Burns’s films connect us, no matter what our background, heritage or station in life, to our country’s past in a way that provides us with an understanding of the present and the issues shaping our lives today.  Public media is committed to providing, through our content and engagement with community, a safe place where people can debate and disagree in a way that affirms, not diminishes, our civil society.”

“In many ways, Prohibition is an example of an era when strongly held views by one group led to consequences that no one could have foreseen at the time,” said Lynn Novick.  “Ken and I are very excited about the opportunity to the work with the National Constitution Center, PBS stations and others across the nation to embark on a conversation that we hope results in greater civility and ultimately a stronger democracy.”

“Can We Talk? A Conversation about Civility and Democracy in America”

An interactive, interdisciplinary forum, “Can We Talk? A Conversation about Civility and Democracy in America” will bring together the best and brightest from such fields as history, government, communications, and political philosophy.  This renowned group will guide public discussion of the role of dissent and protest throughout American history, and the degree to which dissent can and should be civil.  At the close of the event, participants will present guidance on the tools, systems, and best practices that may contribute to productive social and political movements in the future of our nation.

The forum will feature three main parts specifically designed to foster active public engagement with the topic: an opening keynote address, a set of small group discussions and a large town hall-style exchange that will be taped for broadcast at a later date.  Portions of the conference also will be webcast live at www.constitutioncenter.org.  The Center’s new blog, Constitution Daily, will feature live blogging of the events and ongoing coverage about civility and its connections to the Constitution at http://blog.constitutioncenter.org.  

Any views, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this program do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities. 

Educational and Web Materials

As part of the partnership, NCC and PBS member station WETA Washington, DC will work together to incorporate themes from “Can We Talk?” into educational and web materials to support the broadcast.  The web site for PROHIBITION will be accessible via pbs.org, one of the most successful .orgs in the world, and will reach millions of people of all ages.  In addition to educational materials, the site will include selections from scripts, outtakes and transcripts from interviews, archival footage and photographs, music, a bibliography, and timelines.  

WETA and PBS also will launch a social media campaign designed to engage audiences online in conversations and discussions around the themes in the film.  Video clips from the broadcast also will be posted on the PBS YouTube Channel.  Fans can follow Ken Burns on Twitter @kenburnspbs or on Facebook at facebook.com/kenburnspbs.

Community Engagement

For each Ken Burns film there is a comprehensive national engagement campaign designed to work in conjunction with the broad promotional plans in order to help create a larger discussion around important topics addressed in the film.  For PROHIBITION, WETA will offer grants to stations to help them explore civility and democracy-related themes and issues in their local markets.  Station activities will include screenings and panel discussions, local productions, customized classroom materials, social networking, and online modules and multi-media projects.

It is expected that events will take place in up to 15 markets (including New Orleans, St. Louis, Baltimore, Louisville, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Miami, Columbus, Seattle, Philadelphia and Washington, among others).

When in market, Burns, Novick and others will screen highlights of PROHIBITION and lead discussions about the film and “Civility and Democracy,” as well as visit local schools to discuss these topics with children.  

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CONTACTS:  

Joe DePlasco
For PBS/Ken Burns
917.981.5125
joe_deplasco@dkcnews.com

 Ashley Berke
National Constitution Center                                         
215.409.6693                                
aberke@constitutioncenter.org           

 

                                 
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