Ben Franklin is a Guide for America Today, Ken Burns Argues

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Ken Burns visits SiriusXM Studios on September 10, 2019 in New York City. (Steven Ferdman via Getty Images)

Benjamin Franklin is “the most amazing American of the 18th century,” according to documentary filmmaker Ken Burns. Burns’ latest documentary on Franklin premieres on PBS next week, and it looks at the ways in which the 18th century reluctant revolutionary operated within a political climate not dissimilar from our own. To Burns, Franklin’s political thinking could help inform modern questions about American identity, partisan divides, international diplomacy and even vaccines. Burns joins us to talk about Franklin's flaws, contradictions and contributions.


Ken Burns, Award-winning filmmaker and historian. His latest documentary is "Benjamin Franklin," which is airing April 4 and 5 on PBS. His many other films include "The Civil War" and "The National Parks: America's Best Idea"