About the National Archives

Welcome Remarks for "The Vietnam War" with Ken Burns and Lynn Novick

Good evening, and welcome to the William G. McGowan Theater at the National Archives. I’m David Ferriero, Archivist of the United States, and I’m pleased you could join us, whether you’re here with us in the theater or watching on YouTube.

Included in our YouTube audience are viewers located at eight of the Presidential Libraries administered by the National Archives— Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, and George W. Bush. We extend a very special welcome to you all, and thanks for joining us.

We’re all looking forward to hearing from Ken Burns, Lynn Novick, and Cokie Roberts talk about the recent PBS series, The Vietnam War. But before we hear from our special guests, I want to let you know about two other programs coming up soon at the McGowan Theater.

Tomorrow at noon, Liza Mundy will be here to talk about her new book, Code Girls: The Untold Story of the American Women Code Breakers of World War II. Mundy extensively used National Archives records to uncover the story of the young American women who cracked key Axis codes, helping to secure Allied victory and revolutionizing the field of cryptanalysis.

And on Monday, October 23, at noon, law professor George William Van Cleve will discuss and sign his book, We Have Not a Government: The Articles of Confederation and the Road to the Constitution.

To learn more about these and all of our public programs and exhibits, consult our monthly Calendar of Events online at Archives.gov. Check our website or sign up to get email updates. You’ll also find information about other National Archives programs and activities.

Another way to get more involved with the National Archives is to become a member of the National Archives Foundation. The Foundation supports the work of the agency, especially its education and outreach programs. Pick up your application for membership in the lobby or become a member online at archivesfoundation.org.

Tonight’s program is one in a series of discussions, film programs, lectures, and other events we are presenting in conjunction with our upcoming exhibit, “Remembering Vietnam,” which will open in the Lawrence F. O’Brien Gallery on November 10th, Veterans Day.

The exhibit is a media-rich exploration of the Vietnam War, featuring interviews with American and Vietnamese veterans and civilians with first-hand experience of the war’s events as well as historic analysis. It is a fascinating collection of newly discovered and iconic original documents, images, film footage, and artifacts that illuminate 12 critical episodes in the war that divided the peoples of both the United States and Vietnam.

Tonight’s program is presented in part through the generous support of L3 Technologies.

And our partner in tonight’s event is the National Archives Foundation, which is also a Commemorative Partner of the U.S.A. Vietnam War Commemoration.

I ask all Vietnam veterans or any United States veterans who served on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces at any time during the period of November 1, 1955 to May 15, 1975 to stand and be recognized. 


Veterans, as you exit the McGowan theater after tonight’s program, National Archives staff and volunteers will present each of the you with the Vietnam Veteran Lapel Pin.  On the back of the pin is embossed

“A Grateful Nation Thanks and Honors You.”  The United States of America Vietnam War Commemoration is a national initiative, and the lapel pin is the nation’s lasting memento of thanks. 


Joining us in the theater are members of the Board of the Better Angels Society, which supports documentary films by Ken Burns and is dedicated to continuing his legacy.

Representing the society tonight is Board Chair Dr. Nancy Cable, who is also president of the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations. Please welcome Dr. Nancy Cable.


Following tonight’s discussion, Ken and Lynn will be signing copies of the companion book to The Vietnam War in the theater lobby.

And now it’s my pleasure to introduce our panel.

Lynn Novick is an Emmy and Peabody Award–winning documentary filmmaker. For nearly 30 years, she has been producing and directing films about American history and culture with long-time partner Ken Burns. Their films are some of the most acclaimed and top-rated documentaries to have aired on PBS, and include Prohibition, Baseball, Jazz, Frank Lloyd Wright and The War, an exploration of ordinary Americans’ experiences in World War II. Novick is currently working on a two-part biography of Ernest Hemingway, co-directed by Burns and slated for completion in 2020, and College Behind Bars, a documentary about a group of men and women imprisoned in New York State, struggling to earn degrees in a rigorous liberal arts college program—the Bard Prison Initiative. The film will air on PBS in 2018.

Ken Burns has been making documentary films for almost 40 years. Since the Academy Award–nominated Brooklyn Bridge in 1981, Ken has gone on to direct and produce some of the most acclaimed historical documentaries ever made. The epic nine-part series The Civil War made his name familiar to millions of Americans and received more than 40 major film and television awards. The late historian Stephen Ambrose said of his films, "More Americans get their history from Ken Burns than any other source." Ken’s films have been honored with dozens of major awards, including 15 Emmy Awards, two Grammy Awards and two Oscar nominations; and in September 2008, Ken was honored by the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences with a Lifetime Achievement Award.

Ken has long had close ties with the National Archives, and not just as a researcher gathering material for his documentaries. Ken is a vice president of the National Archives Foundation Board, and in 2010 the Foundation bestowed on him its Records of Achievement Award.

Moderating tonight’s discussion is Cokie Roberts. Cokie is a political commentator for ABC News and NPR, and in her more than 40 years in broadcasting, she has won countless awards, including three Emmys. She has been inducted into the Broadcasting and Cable Hall of Fame, and was cited by the American Women in Radio and Television as one of the 50 greatest women in the history of broadcasting. In addition to her reporting, Roberts has written six New York Times bestsellers, most dealing with the roles of women in U.S. history. Cokie holds more than 25 honorary degrees and serves on the boards of several nonprofit institutions. In 2008 the Library of Congress named her a “Living Legend,” one of the very few Americans to have attained that honor.

Cokie is also a vice president of the National Archives Foundation Board, and we are always pleased when she can join us for our programs.

Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Ken Burns, Lynn Novick, and Cokie Roberts.