Art has helped create the America that we know and love today. And at its best, film allows us a window into our own lives and get a chance to see the world through someone else’s eyes. One of the heroes of American cinema, Atticus Finch, said that “you never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view, until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”
That great line is from the classic film “To Kill A Mockingbird,” a movie that has informed and entertained us for generations. I love the movies. And art gave me the chance at a young age to experience a world beyond my neighborhood in Chicago and develop skills that have lasted a lifetime.
Stories like mine are reasons President Obama is committed to recognizing the importance of the fine arts. And as a part of his constant effort to acknowledge and celebrate the arts and their impact on our country, on Thursday, April 5, President Obama commemorated the 50th Anniversary of To Kill a Mockingbird—a 1962 film adaptation of author Harper Lee’s 1960 novel about racial inequality in the deep south—by hosting a screening in the Family Theater at the White House. The invited guests included actors and family members related to the film. Among them was Mary Badham Wilt, the actress who played Scout; Veronique Peck, widow of Gregory Peck who played Atticus Finch; and students from local school in Virginia, Washington-Lee High School.
My hope is that these students were both inspired by the story that unfolded on screen but how the making of the film, the groundbreaking novel that inspired it, and the constant effort to perfect our union forever changed all those who made the movie and millions more through the years who have watched it.
How relevant is the story in “To Kill A Mockingbird” to the world we live in today? To me, that is the great thing about art. The viewer will answer that question for themselves.
I do know that it was another special night at the White House.