Last Friday at the 100 Year Starship Symposium, I got to spend a few minutes with a personal hero — LeVar Burton. Burton is a member of the 100YSS Advisory Council, along with pursuing his ongoing acting career and the modern, electronic revival of Reading Rainbow. Here’s a transcript of our talk:
Kit O’Connell, Firedoglake: What’s your role at 100 Year Starship, and this weekend?
LeVar Burton: My role with 100 Year Starship, I’m on the advisory board. I like to think I bring the voice of the artist to this multidimensional, cross-discipline effort. And maybe a little bit of the shaman, a little bit of the priest as well — the spiritual. When we go, we’ll need to take all of us — I mean in terms of who we are as a species. And that means our spirituality should not be left behind.
FDL: I saw you tweeted earlier about feeling like you’re the least smart person in the room. I totally empathize with that, it’s a humbling feeling.
LB: It is, but it’s also very cool in a sense. Because there’s a sense in all of us that likes to believe that the adults are in charge, you know? That if it were up to me, this would never get done. But I know it’s not up to me. I know I have a contribution to make, I have a piece of it, as does everybody, right? But it’s not completely dependent on me. There are other people in the process that bring all of the stuff that I don’t. And that’s the value of a collaborative effort. That’s the value of recognizing that this has got to be a global effort. That this isn’t just for one demographic or one nation. That this is for all of us.
FDL: It’s not just for rocket scientists or billionaires.
LB: It’s not just for rocket scientists or billionaires. It’s for all of us. We all have a stake in this effort. One of the things I know we need to do is to reach out to the vast community out there of people who care about the future of humanity, the future of mankind. Just keep hanging out at the website, keep your eyes and ears out for ways to engage with us on this journey because it really is — it’s the truth.
FDL: The theory, the science is there but we don’t have any of the money. There’s no money for the research. There’s nothing to turn it from theoretical into reality. Do you have hope for that? Where do we go?
LB: I do. I really believe that part of the process will be — as we are more and more comfortable deciding to spend less on war, quite frankly — let me just go right there. Once we decide to spend less on war, we will have more money to spend on everything else. The military budget is just sucking the life out of our coffers as a nation and states and local communities as well. We have to do it differently. We have to reallocate the resources in a way that makes much more sense for the future life and health of our species.
Once we decide to spend less on war, we will have more money to spend on everything else. … We have to do it differently. We have to reallocate the resources in a way that makes much more sense for the future life and health of our species.
FDL: What else are you working on now other than 100 Year Starship? Do you have other projects?
LB: My company RRKids is the rights holder to the Reading Rainbow brand. Our first product on the marketplace, the Reading Rainbow app, has been out there for a year now. We’re experiencing what I believe to be remarkable success in terms of getting kids to read on digital devices. We’re having kids read about 72,000 books per week on the app and watching about 50,000 videos per week. In the tradition of Reading Rainbow, the television show, which combined the literature that kids read with real world experiences through video field trips, now we are a mobile library for tablet computers. We have over 300 books and counting and about 75 videos and counting. We’re a subscription model — all you can eat for either $10 a month or $30 for six months, which is about $5 a month for unlimited quality literature and video content for your kids. We think it’s a good value that we’re offering families and we’re really proud of what we’re doing. So that keeps me very busy. And my other job as an actor keeps me busy from February to June with the series Perception on TNT.
FDL: Great, thank you so much for talking to me.
Photo by Kit O’Connell, released under a Creative Commons license.