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In the past 30 years, LeVar Burton has done it all - from acting to directing and even producing.

He has appeared in numerous television movies, films and television shows. Burton is probably best known for his roles as Kunta Kinte in the award-winning miniseries Roots, Lt. Commander Geordi La Forge in the Star Trek franchise, as well as being the host and executive producer of the long-running PBS children's series Reading Rainbow. The latter series earned Burton 13 Emmy Awards and five NAACP Awards.

Burton has directed numerous episodes of all four Star Trek series, in addition to episodes of Las Vegas and Charmed. He also directed the highly popular Disney Channel original film Smart House and the critically acclaimed Showtime television movie The Tiger Woods Story.

Full Profile

Speaker LeVar Burton has been capturing the attention of admiring audiences and industry peers for three decades, and continues to enjoy a career longevity truly rare within the industry. Whether acting, directing, producing or writing, Burton has demonstrated that he can do it all.

As if following some implausible Hollywood scenario, Burton’s first professional audition, while pursuing his undergraduate studies at USC, led to his being cast as “Kunta Kinte” in the acclaimed miniseries Roots. The phenomenal success of Roots launched his career as an actor, and more importantly, earned his performance as “Kunta Kinte” a lasting status as a worldwide icon representing the indomitability of the human spirit. What followed were starring roles in a string of television movies, including One in a Million: The Ron Leflore Story, Dummy, Grambling’s White Tiger, The Guyana Tragedy and A Roots Christmas: Kunta Kinte’s Gift. Among his early feature film credits are Looking for Mr. Goodbar with acclaimed writer/director Richard Brooks, and Steve McQueen’s final motion picture, The Hunter.

An avowed science fiction buff as well as a devoted fan of the unique vision of Gene Rodenberry, Burton has directed numerous episodes of all four Star Trek series: The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager and Enterprise, and considers his longtime association with the Star Trek franchise nothing short of a dream come true. Growing up in the ‘60s and ‘70s, Burton remembers it as a time “rare to encounter portrayals of people who looked like [him] represented in the popular culture.” Having both appeared in and directed a plethora of Trek incarnations over the years, he adamantly adheres to his optimistic point of view of the future, saying, “I’m betting on our ultimate success at rising to our highest level of human expression.”

After 25 seasons as the host and executive producer of the highly acclaimed PBS children’s television series Reading Rainbow, Burton ended his longtime commitment to the show in favor of exploring other avenues of creative expression. While taking great pride in the series’ role in garnering him a total of 13 Emmy Awards, five NAACP Awards and numerous nominations, he is most proud of Reading Rainbow’s ability to “use the medium of television to help create generations of Americans who are passionate readers.”

Burton has directed various episodes of Charmed and Las Vegas. His first dramatic television movie, The Tiger Woods Story, which he directed for Showtime, received great critical acclaim as well as three Emmy nominations. He also directed the enormously popular Disney Channel original film, Smart House.

In 2006, Burton received a Grammy for his narration of the book, The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr. He has also recorded on tape The Watsons Go to Birmingham, The Miles Davis Story, The Jackie Robinson Story, and The Tenth Insight and The Celestine Vision by James Redfield, author of The Celestine Prophecy.

Today, while primarily focusing his energy behind the camera as a successful film and television director, Burton sees himself as a trained storyteller, who is “in love with the visual medium.” His first feature film, Blizzard, was shot in Toronto and Quebec City, stars Whoopi Goldberg, Christopher Plummer, Brenda Blethyn, and Kevin Pollak, and was produced by Robert Schwartz and Ralph Winter. His most recent feature film project, Reach for Me, starring Alfre Woodard and Seymour Cassel, is currently playing to enthusiastic audiences on the independent festival circuit.

In 2014, LeVar Burton launched a Kickstarter program to reboot Reading Rainbow, and raised over five times their goal of $1,000,000, eventually reaching almost five-and-a-half million dollars.

Burton was born in Landsthul, West Germany where his father was stationed during military service. He was two years old when his family returned to the United States.


LeVar Burton Speaker Videos Back to top

LeVar Burton: Keynote speech - SXSWedu


LeVar Burton offers his thoughts on literature and the written word and how it has evolved over time. Reminiscing about how he has a huge reader as a young child, he says, "Science fiction literature always tended to be my body of literature of choice...For me science fiction literature dares to ask what I consider to be two of the most important words in combination in language. Those words being: what if."

Explaining further, he says, "The body of science fiction literature invites us, in fact engages us, on a process of imagining. Imagining the world that we ourselves would like to see, to inhabit, to explore."

Keynote Speech



Speeches / Speaking Engagements Back to top


LeVar Burton talks about the different factors that have influenced his life and work. He also discusses how technology can be used as a tool in education and shares his thoughts on the importance of reading and having an imagination.

Technology and Storytelling: Making a Difference in the Digital Age
Join LeVar Burton as he shares the powerful impact that his mentors, technology, storytelling, and science fiction have had on his life and how each has helped shape his incredible life's work. Be there as he concludes the session with a personal demonstration of how he employs today's latest technologies in his efforts to educate and enlighten—a world premier peek at his latest project, the Reading Rainbow App.

Martin Luther King Jr.: The Man and the Myth
In this presentation, Burton explores the conflicting nature of the man who was Martin Luther King, Jr., versus the mythical Dr. King. For example, Burton says the quote, "Our lives begin to end the day we remain silent about things that matter" is one of the most famous quotes attributed to Dr. King, except there is no evidence that he said those words. Burton also looks at the implications of legacy and its impact on our world today.

The Power of Storytelling: Written, Spoken, Lived
In this inspirational presentation, Burton discusses his three storytelling mentors: Alex Haley, Gene Roddenberry and Fred Rogers. He talks about their influence on his life and the world at large, and also discusses the power of personal narrative. Other Topics Include:

  • The Importance of Literacy
  • The Influence of the Media in Education
  • The Power of Imagination
  • On Reaching One's Full Potential




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    Technology and Storytelling: Making a Difference in the Digital Age
    Join LeVar Burton as he shares the powerful impact that his mentors, technology, storytelling, and science fiction have had on his life and how each has helped shape his incredible life's work. Be there as he concludes the session with a personal demonstration of how he employs today's latest technologies in his efforts to educate and enlighten—a world premier peek at his latest project, the Reading Rainbow App.

    Martin Luther King Jr.: The Man and the Myth
    In this presentation, Burton explores the conflicting nature of the man who was Martin Luther King, Jr., versus the mythical Dr. King. For example, Burton says the quote, "Our lives begin to end the day we remain silent about things that matter" is one of the most famous quotes attributed to Dr. King, except there is no evidence that he said those words. Burton also looks at the implications of legacy and its impact on our world today.

    The Power of Storytelling: Written, Spoken, Lived
    In this inspirational presentation, Burton discusses his three storytelling mentors: Alex Haley, Gene Roddenberry and Fred Rogers. He talks about their influence on his life and the world at large, and also discusses the power of personal narrative. Other Topics Include:

  • The Importance of Literacy
  • The Influence of the Media in Education
  • The Power of Imagination
  • On Reaching One's Full Potential


  • LeVar Burton: Keynote speech - SXSWedu


    LeVar Burton offers his thoughts on literature and the written word and how it has evolved over time. Reminiscing about how he has a huge reader as a young child, he says, "Science fiction literature always tended to be my body of literature of choice...For me science fiction literature dares to ask what I consider to be two of the most important words in combination in language. Those words being: what if."

    Explaining further, he says, "The body of science fiction literature invites us, in fact engages us, on a process of imagining. Imagining the world that we ourselves would like to see, to inhabit, to explore."

    Keynote Speech