Ken Burns isn’t usually someone who typically wades into political battles. The fact that the famous documentary director has felt compelled to put Donald Trump on blast is likely a sign Ken Burns has had enough, and he may feel like he needs to bring his perspective to the political battle unfolding in America. The filmmaker put the Republican presidential candidate on blast in the most public of venues, as he was giving a commencement speech at Stanford University.
The speech, given last week, took a bit of time to garner widespread attention, but since video of his speech started making the rounds, Burns said he felt as though his talk was something he had to do as part of his responsibility as an American citizen. Burns sat down and talked to USA Today about why he felt like he had to make some comments that could only be construed as negative toward Donald Trump.
“There are times when we are required to speak up and speak out … when you find threats to the glories of our political system, the glories of our pluralism, the glories of the strength of our diversity when something threatens that, I think we’re all obligated as citizens to say something about it. And I felt that it was important and I’m not alone, there are many people who are speaking up.”
This kind of speech, where he takes Trump to task, is a definite departure from where Ken Burns has been his entire career. The director has said that because of what he does for a living, he always tries to stay neutral. However, what he has seen from the presidential candidate has compelled him to speak out, and he has chosen to use the Stanford commencement as his venue.
Those who know Burns well were surprised the director was willing to say things about Trump’s “dictatorial tendencies.”
The Boston Globe pointed out the filmmaker said he believes the candidate is “glaringly not qualified” for the nation’s highest elected office. The Globe also talked about the fact Burns didn’t name Trump by name, but it was pretty clear who he was talking about as his speech went along. Instead, he referred to Trump as “this candidate,” and added he believes the person he was speaking of had some Orwellian tendencies.
Because he has spent most of the his career looking at the history of the country, he believes he’s seen the pattern that is emerging from this campaign before. During his speech, he told the gathered attendants that the candidate’s actions and behaviors were the same we’ve all seen before in cultures that have since failed miserably. The director wasn’t just talking about the things he doesn’t like about the candidate; Burns also claimed the country is in a critical situation that will impact the kids who were amassed at the commencement speech.
The filmmaker told those who were listening to his speech that they needed to actively work in order to stop Trump from winning the presidency. “You must do everything you can to defeat the retrograde forces that have invaded our democratic process,” he said. After he dropped that line, the Stanford crowd gave him feedback with raucous applause. “We no longer have the luxury of neutrality or ‘balance,’ or even of bemused disdain,” he later added.
The speech was delivered just hours after a mad man shot up a nightclub in Orlando, Florida, and Donald Trump had reiterated his stance about banning Muslim immigrants from coming to the United States. Ken Burns would point to comments like the ones Trump made as one of the reasons the director is actively campaigning against him.
[Photo by Ramin Talaie/Getty Images]