Thanks, Norman!

The first tree I can remember climbing was in Norman Lear’s backyard. Norman and my mother go way back – so far back that I wasn’t even a thought. But when I became one, Norman and Lyn were the first to send baby gifts. You all know him as a TV legend and great culture commentator, but he is much more than that. He has the most positive presence. He’s a rock to the Jewish community. And he is a light that shines brighter than any of the glistening awards on his shelf.

Naturally, I’m a fan of his work as well. His capacity to bring social issues into the public consciousness through entertainment is unrivaled. I’ve always taken seriously his charge to me and other young people to not only continue to watch these shows but to ask their own questions about the world around them.

It was a really special experience to see so many of my JFN colleagues get to experience the delight that is Norman’s sparkling wit in person for the first time. The occasion was a joint event hosted by JFN and WNET on July 11th about his upcoming PBS special American Masters: Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You.

At the event, Norman spoke about that cliché concept of the “American Dream.” It’s not just a cliché to him. He still sees himself as a kid from Brooklyn who overcame the odds of being a Jew and a victim of anti-Semitism, with an incarcerated father and very little money. He believes passionately in America as the place where someone like that could, with hard work, get himself through Emerson College and eventually find his way to his incredible career. He’s so committed to his patriotism, in fact, that he purchased an original copy of the Declaration of Independence and made it available to the public during the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City.

Michael Kantor, Executive Producer of the Masters Series with WNET, led the interview with both of them standing up—at 94-year-old Norman’s request (so he could see the whole audience).

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In between questions about the inspiration for his shows and his relationships with actors past and present, we watched clips from the PBS film. Do yourself a favor and watch it. (For those of us here in New York, it’s at IFC Center right now.) It’s a fantastic movie about a truly fantastic guy.

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