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Ken Burns American Heritage Prize 2017

In celebration of the indomitable American spirit, we are pleased to announce distinguished historian David McCullough as the 2017 recipient of the Ken Burns American Heritage Prize


Photo of Ken Burns by Tim LlewelynNamed in honor of America’s most revered visual historian and documentary filmmaker, the Ken Burns American Heritage Prize recognizes an individual whose body of work has advanced our collective understanding of the indomitable American spirit. Nominees for the annual Prize consist of visionary artists, authors, conservationists, educators, filmmakers, historians and scientists.

The Prize also serves to inspire public support for American Prairie Reserve, the modern-day embodiment of America’s optimistic, boundless and daring approach to accomplishing the unprecedented. Today, American Prairie Reserve is creating the largest park in the continental United States on the Great Plains of northeastern Montana.

“As a lifelong student of the American experience, it’s a privilege to lend my name to a Prize honoring individuals whose accomplishments reinvigorate the nation’s understanding of all that is possible,” Mr. Burns says.

“And as one who has been irrevocably changed by the majesty of the American West, I am inspired by American Prairie Reserve’s historic mission to return a vast swath of Montana to the spectacular natural beauty first enjoyed by Native Americans and later noted by Lewis and Clark. The Prize we present together to David acknowledges the historic role that the Great Plains played in helping to shape America’s character. It’s that same character, courage and fortitude which David’s tremendous work elucidates. This indomitable American spirit is alive and well today, in David and in the men and women in many arenas whose work reminds us that our lives serve a greater purpose.”

“American Prairie Reserve is grateful to collaborate with both Ken Burns and David McCullough at this inflection point in our journey to return an entire grassland ecosystem to its original vibrancy,” says Sean Gerrity, president, American Prairie Reserve. “Together we honor the struggles and successes of those men and women who continue to shape America’s character — all against the backdrop of our natural heritage, which played a huge role in who we are today. Just as Ken’s National Parks series demonstrates, this land should be open and accessible to the people forever. That’s our goal. And David’s work helps us understand that ordinary Americans are capable of extraordinary acts of courage and conviction — something we see every day as we work alongside our supporters and volunteers to preserve the fastest- disappearing ecosystem on the planet.”

David McCullough photographed by William B. McCullough

Mr. McCullough was nominated and selected by the Prize’s National Nominating Committee and National Jury, which are comprised of distinguished leaders who represent communities across the country and share a common appreciation of America’s heritage. Read the press release.

Mr. McCullough will receive the honor from Mr. Burns, Mr. Gerrity and other special guests during the Prize’s inaugural presentation event on May 3, 2017, at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. The evening’s festivities will include remarks by these gentlemen as well as National Jury Chair and Former U.S. Ambassador to Finland Barbara Barrett plus live, specially-commissioned music.

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Bison Photo by Dennis Lingohr
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The National Jury
A group of distinguished leaders selected the winner.