The One and Only
I had the pleasure of being invited to a preview screening on Monday of the new film for PBS by Ken Burns called "The War."
It is the story of World War II as described by eyewitnesses, seven veterans of that great conflict and their friends and family members.
Created by "Florentine Films," Burns’ production company, it will be seen in multiple episodes similar to their 1989 series "The Civil War."
As with that magnificent production, "The War" was created in conjunction with WETA, Channel 26, which was the host of the preview event at the Library of Congress.
Also like "The Civil War," General Motors is the main underwriter of this production. It will air on PBS stations beginning on September 23.
The preview was part of a national community outreach effort by PBS that is financed by grants from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
The outreach is done in conjunction with the Veterans History Project at the Library of Congress, an effort to record the recollections of World War II veterans
Many World War II veterans were in attendance, including my guest for the evening, Pearl Harbor survivor Frank Yanick.
About 400 people were in attendance for the 45-minute preview that was shown in the auditorium of the beautiful Thomas Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress.
In comments before the screening, Ken Burns said that he and his production company have spent six years preparing for and producing the series.
He said that the series is about "the" war because that is how veterans of that world-wide conflict refer to it when they reluctantly talk about it.
Many people suggested to Burns that he do a series on World War II after "The Civil War" aired, but he said that he was reluctant to do so.
He did not want "Florentine Films" to be seen as a producer of documentaries solely about wars. But, he added, he changed his mind in 2001.
That was the year that his father, a World War II veteran, died and he learned that 1,000 of the over 6 million American veterans of the war are dying each day.
He was also spurred to look at World War II, he added, after he learned of the results of a study of American high school students.
The study showed that a majority of them mistakenly thought that the United States fought with Germany against the Soviet Union during the war.
He said that he felt he needed to record the recollections of our aging World War II veterans and set the record straight while they were still alive.
The film interweaves footage shot by military cameramen during and after battles with descriptions by veterans of what they experienced.
It initially focuses on four veterans from different corners of our country and shows their experiences and those of the people who lived in their communities.
Because complaints by the Hispanic community, a new section of the series adds the experiences of two Hispanic veterans and one native American veteran.
From the preview we saw, this production is an epic saga that will be every bit as riveting and enthralling as "The Civil War."
When it was over, there were few dry eyes in the audience and both Ken Burns and the veterans in the audience received standing ovations.
Changes in the General Assembly
Tuesday’s Democratic and Republican primaries produced some surprising changes that will make the November General Assembly elections interesting.
On the Democratic side, two House incumbents were challenged. Dan Bowling of Southwest Virginia, endorsed by Governor Kaine, was able to fend off his challenger.
In Portsmouth, Johnny Joannou handily beat a competitor endorsed by Mark Warner, who apparently did not like Johnny’s votes against several of his initiatives.
In the Senate, Delegate Don McEachin defeated 30-year incumbent Ben Lambert, who was hurt by his embrace of George Allen in last year’s U.S. Senate race.
On the Republican side, two moderate GOP Senators were defeated: Brandon Bell in Southwest Virginia and Transportation Committee chairman Marty Williams in Virginia Beach.
Democrats think that they have a good chance of capturing these newly open districts in their goal to regain a majority by winning four new seats.
House Democrats need to take 11 seats from Republicans to regain a majority. While many doubt that it can happen, the political winds are blowing in our favor.