Public Lands and Public Media

Tonight is the premier of the new Ken Burns and Dayton Duncan documentary, The National Parks: America’s Best Idea. I have had the good fortune to see a few sneak previews of the six part series, and am eager to see the rest.

The first preview of the series I saw was a rough cut of the introductory monologue, which featured stunning videography from just a few of the 391 national parks and laid out the guiding idea behind the film. I was struck at how the Duncan tied the history of the national parks to our political, social, and individual identities as Americans.

This excerpt from the introduction on their website gets at some of these ideas, “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea is the story of an idea as uniquely American as the Declaration of Independence and just as radical: that the most special places in the nation should be preserved, not for royalty or the rich, but for everyone.” For Dayton Duncan and Ken Burns this idea is fundamental to our democratic spirit, and understanding the role of the parks in the history of America is key to understanding ourselves. Continue reading