Months ago it was announced that LeVar Burton was going to be a keynote speaker at this years RootsTech conference. I jumped, I screamed, I punched my fist in the air. Seriously I did! You see he was a fixture of my childhood and then my teen years. But, before that he was something much more.
Burton touched the hearts of all in attendance at the opening session on Friday. He spoke with so much love, and emotion, of his strong mother. A deep love and respect for the woman who raised him to be the man he is today. His words spoke to my heart on more than one moment, and had many of those around me in tears.
While I was too young to see his debut performance of Kunta Kinte in Alex Haley's Roots learning from him what the experience was like moved my to the core. I was able to ask him about how this experience shaped his life and career. He told me, and the group of bloggers surrounding him, how it was an initiation by fire. The experience was painful, moving, a moment of learning, but most importantly, of connecting with his heritage.
Heritage, this is why we do what we do...right? To that end Family Search surprised him with a book of his own family heritage. At one point Burton turned to the room and asked "is this what you do?" A resounding "YES!" was shouted back. Thanks to the wonderful work of Thom Reed, Burton was transported back to ancestor "his people" from the early 1800's living in Mississippi. What a wonderful gift.
While he will always be my childhood friend who took me over the Reading Rainbow, and the engineer from my informative years taking me where no one has ever gone before, I can now add this powerful persona to my memories. Seeing the person behind the mask was the best gift I could ever hoped for here. One I will treasure.
Please, if you have not watched it, go and do it now. They will be archived so you can watch it over
and over again.