Testimonials

Ken Burns David Grubin Peter Jennings Jack Kemp Ronald Maxwell Sandra Day O'Connor
 

KEN BURNS

They don't call this the new world for nothing. This where you come and remake yourself. You throw off the old and tired history. You throw off the old tyrannies and you find a place to find literally for yourself, as Lincoln put it, "a new birth of freedom,." But Lincoln also said, fellow citizen we cannot escape history, the fiery trial through which we pass will light us down in honor or dishonor to the latest generation. So Americans, and new American particularly, are on a strange razor's edge. They deal with a daily paradox in which you've thrown off the past. You're remaking yourelf anew, you're plunging yourself into the new history of your newly adopted land and yet the old history is always there. In some ways, the way we negotiate our present is the way we are trying to heal and negotiate our past. And the way we avoid or deal with our past tells us entirely about who we are today. So I think Gabor is a person who has found in the example of the American Civil War, the bloodiest moment in American history, the great trial, the defining experience for all Americans, his own way to deal with and ameliorate and come to terms with ultimately, however much he avoids it, his own complicated past. Which is dealing with the exact same thing: this age-old human search for freedom.

“Gabor has invented him self a new in America.”


This is a good story because it is just parallel construction. Here you have a young boy growing up under the yoke of first Nazism and then Communism and finding a way to break free of that - a defining moment of childhood. And coming to a new land where he discovers the most important man in American history. A life bound and truncated throught tyranny in Eastern Europe finding in the western world, in beautiful south central Pennsylvania his own new birth of freedom.

“He has the possibilityof finding out who he was.”

I find Gabor's story as a kind of fulcrum about American and world history. In that history of the past is our salvation. You can't possibly know where you are or where you are going unless you know where you've been. He's invented himself anew in America by delving into, with a scholar's precision and a patriot's passion, who we are as Americans. Now from that stability he has the possiblity of finding out who he was and what his people went through. And that is a hell of a story.

Ken Burns set PBS ratings records with Jazz, Baseball and The Civil War. He is an advisor to this project.