If you’re a Star Trek fan, you know LeVar Burton as Lt. Cmdr. Geordi LaForge, the vision-impaired engineer of the USS Enterprise. Fans of ’70’s mini-series know him as Kunta Kinte, Alex Haley’s ancestor kidnapped into slavery from Roots. If you’re a parent or a teacher, the first thing you think of when you hear Burton’s name is not Star Trek: The Next Generation, but Reading Rainbow.
Burton has dedicated decades of his life to promoting children’s literacy through the PBS show Reading Rainbow. He is also an advocate for AIDS research and treatment. The Inamori International Center for Ethics and Excellence at Case Western Reserve University announced it will award Burton “the 2019 Inamori Ethics Prize to Burton for his outstanding global ethical leadership as an advocate for such important and worthy causes. “
Shannon E. French, the Inamori Professor in Ethics and director of the Inamori International Center for Ethics and Excellence:
“I’m delighted to have LeVar Burton as our first prize-winner from the arts. His work for children’s literacy has had such profound impact. He has truly transformed lives through PBS’s Reading Rainbow and his nonprofit work, and has also been a change agent in support of more funding for AIDS research. “
Burton is far more than just an actor, playing make-believe as he recites someone else’s words. He has introduced tens of thousands of children to the magic and joy of reading. In addition to hosting the show, he was its executive producer, and personally won 12 Emmy Awards for the show. Reading Rainbow won over 200 awards during its twenty-plus seasons.
The Inamori Ethics Prize will be awarded to LeVar Burton in September in Cleveland, Ohio. It is awarded to those men and women who demonstrate exemplary ethical leadership. Previous winners have been scientists, philosophers, and human rights advocates. Burton is the first actor to win, indeed, as Professor French said, the first winner from the arts.
According to the American Educational Research Association says, a student who can’t read on grade level by 3rd grade is four times less likely to graduate by age 19 than a child who does read proficiently by that time. Add poverty to the mix, and a student is 13 times less likely to graduate on time than his or her proficient, wealthier peer. By encouraging children to read, LeVar Burton has invested in an improved future for all of us.
In addition to playing Geordi LaForge in ST: Next Gen, LeVar Burton portrayed a young Kunta Kinte in Roots, voiced Kwame on Captain Planet and the Planeteers, and has guest starred on such shows as The Love Boat, Fantasy Island, and Disney’s Gargoyles. He has directed one episode of Scorpion, three episodes of Charmed, five episodes of NCIS New Orleans, and nine episodes of Star Trek: Enterprise.
SCIFI.radio congratulates Mr. Burton on this well deserved honor. Don’t forget to share your opinion with us in the comments section below. We want to hear from you.