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2009 Welcome – Part II

By Larry Kirkman, Dean, American University School of Communication



Dean Larry Kirkman: For more than 35 years, Jon Alpert has demonstrated two things: the profound commitment to empowering people with the tools and skills to speak for themselves and at the same time the highest professional standards for investigative documentary production.

I have personal connections to both I.F. Stone and Jon Alpert. In 1969, I taught social studies for a year at Eastern High School in D.C. I used the I.F. Stone Weekly as a text and Izzy was an advisor and I fondly remember dinners at his home. When I produced the first national video festival in 1981 for the American Film Institute of the Kennedy Center, Jon Alpert and DCTV had already emerged as a symbol for a movement of community media centers and independent video makers. Jon had produced major documentary specials for PBS and NBC and at DCTV’s workshops that year, 2,000 participants were producing more than 200 video programs.

The keynote speaker for the national video festival was Erik Barnouw, the great historian for broadcast and documentary. In Erik’s history of documentary, he expressed deep appreciation for Jon Alpert’s work. He described Jon’s uncanny ability to get people to react to him as a person and not a media visitation. He saw that Jon’s work was rooted in a respect for the subject as well as the audience. What Erik Barnouw said in his keynote address that year on the theme of the independent spirit fits both Izzy and Jon. He said the independent spirit asked the unimagined question and listens to the unexpected answer.

[Not on tape: That is why we are here tonight to celebrate the independent spirits who asks the unimagined questions and listens to the unexpected answers. So, thank you for being here with us.]

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