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Leadership / Entrepreneur Magazine

Ken Burns Says Entrepreneurship Is at the Heart of the American Dream

The award-winning filmmaker says that improvisation is the key to the American promise of prosperity and self-reliance.
- Entrepreneur Staff
Editorial Director
2 min read

A Note From The Editor

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Award-winning filmmaker Ken Burns is responsible for some of the most moving and powerful documentary series of our time.

The Civil War, Baseball and Jazz are just a few of the incredible deep dives he has done into the eras and moments that define who we are as Americans. And now he is ready to dazzle us once again. 

In collaboration with Lynn Novick, Burns' new 10-part documenatry film series The Vietnam War will debut on September 17 on PBS stations nationwide. We spoke with the great documentarian about topics ranging from creativity to productivity to the American spirit. You can read the entire interview in the September issue of Entrepreneur (or by going here).

Related: Ken Burns Talks About Leadership, Productivity and Achieving Immortality Through Storytelling

In this excerpt, Burns discusses how he has seen the spirit of entrepreneurship evolve over the years:

"I think entrepreneurship is at the heart of who we are in terms of the American promise and the American dream. You have to go back to the fundamentals -- for the first time in human history, we decided to trust the people to govern themselves. That releases all kinds of creative energies. I remember interviewing a writer and historian for my baseball series. He said, when Americans are studying 1,000 years from now, we’ll be known for three things: the Constitution, baseball and jazz music. And what all three things have in common is that they’re improvisatory. The U.S. Constitution is the shortest constitution on Earth. It’s four pieces of parchment that is able to provide us with this improvisatory space. And baseball has infinite, chess-like combinations. And of course, the heart of jazz music is all about improvisation, not playing the notes on the page. And so entrepreneurship is an extension of that, or a manifestation of that."

Watch the video to learn more how Burns thinks of entrepreneurship.

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