LeVar Burton is one the most captivating storytellers of all time. As an actor, director, and television host, Burton has touched the lives of three generations. Born in Landstuhl, West Germany to a military family, Burton would grow up with his mother and two sisters in Sacramento, California. As a teen, he had a desire to become a priest but would later change his vocation to acting. While studying at the University of Southern California, Burton would get the opportunity that would change his life forever in the 1977 television miniseries Roots. Burton’s iconic breakthrough performance as the young Kunta Kinte would challenge the social norms in America. “It expanded the consciousness of people. Blacks and whites began to see each other as human beings, not as stereotypes.” — Burton
Drawing inspiration from his mother, English teacher Erma Gene, Burton would go on to host and executive produce the PBS series Reading Rainbow. A true champion of literacy, Burton modeled the show after the success of Mr. Rogers, who taught Burton that “It was ok to use television as a ministry, you can entertain and enlighten”. Reading Rainbow would go on to inspire a generation of children to not only read but enjoy reading. The series would run for 23 seasons, earning 12 Emmys. After the show ended in 2006, Burton and his business partner, Mark Wolfe, would acquire the Reading Rainbow rights later developing LeVar Burton Online Media and Skybrary iPad app, inspiring a new generation of children to read.
Throughout Burton’s career, one thing remained the same… He loved to tell stories. He has brought a wide range of characters to life, from Star Trek to The New Adventures of Captain Planet. His love of science led him to executive produce a documentary titled The Science of Peace: investigating Science and Technology, which was aimed at enabling world peace. His most recent work as a guest host on Jeopardy has reignited his celebrity and introduced him to a new generation of readers. What makes LeVar Burton a national treasure is his ability to not only read a story but to capture the essence of the story’s message.