Last night LeVar Burton spoke at the Fayetteville Public Library here in Northwest Arkansas. Yes, LeVar Burton of Reading Rainbow fame, Geordi La Forge of Star Trek, the Next Generation, and of course, Kunta Kinte of Roots.
Reading Rainbow began in 1983, just as I was learning to read. Beginning with those familiar synthesized chords, Reading Rainbow’s upbeat song became a regular part of my day. I believed, as I watched the butterfly transform an ordinary world into the extraordinary, that I really could go anywhere and do anything. Burton’s field trips in the series often took him to what seemed impossibly faraway and exotic places. It spurred me to imagine what it would be like to visit other places and meet new people.
1987 brought the launch of Star Trek, the Next Generation, and I fell headlong into a deep love of space, science and pushing the limits of exploration, not to mention that handsome Commander Riker. Burton, already so familiar to me from Reading Rainbow, now impacted my childhood again as Chief Engineer Geordi La Forge. I remember thinking how strange it was to watch him with his visor on in Star Trek, and then view an episode of Reading Rainbow and be able to see his eyes. Burton revealed last night that wearing that visor was extremely difficult, as it cut his sight by nearly 85%. Ironic when you consider that the visor gave Geordi La Forge sight in Star Trek.
Hearing LeVar Burton speak last night and read his new book, The Rhino Who Swallowed a Storm, and having the chance to meet him face to face was an amazing experience. It’s not often someone you’ve never met has the chance to impact your life on so many levels, but Reading Rainbow instilled in me a love of reading and the desire to travel and explore, and Star Trek added a deep belief in science, learning and pressing past previous boundaries “to boldly go” where I’ve never been before.
I’m glad LeVar Burton continues to campaign for literacy and reading for children and that a new generation of children, the next generation, will be inspired to sing and believe, “I can go anywhere. I can be anything. Take a look, it’s in a book!”
Thank you, LeVar, for everything!
Planet and Star Background Image courtesy of Photokanok at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Rainbow Music Background Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net