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Photo courtesy Tauck
Tauck, the Norwalk, Conn.-based tour operator, has teamed up with filmmaker Ken Burns again, this time with a tour that focuses on the theme of freedom, and what freedom means in America.
The program, entitled "In Freedom's Footsteps," is the latest in an expanding series of collaborations between the tour operator and the maker of historical films about America.
The tour, set for 2016, is timed to coincide with the 2016 presidential election. It was developed through a collaboration with Ken Burns and the Tauck innovation team.
For Ken Burns, the subject of freedom is a recurring theme in his movies, each of which attempts to look deep into the soul of America through a particular lens. The theme of freedom was certainly never far from the surface of Burns' films on the Civil War, jazz, prohibition and many others. In this tour, the lens is on freedom itself.
"Freedom motivated our ancestors to cross an ocean and settle here, and it compelled us to rebel against the world's greatest super-power and establish our own independence," said Burns. "But disagreements on the issue of freedom, and whether or not it should extend to over four million enslaved Americans, nearly destroyed us. Today though - and this will only get worse as we move toward next year's election - we use the term blithely, with no thought or examination. It's a throwaway line to rally our worst jingoistic instincts… we all remember 'Freedom Fries.' What I'm thrilled to do with this new Tauck journey is to put America's complex history of 'freedom' under a magnifying glass, and give it the full and respectful consideration it so rightly deserves."
The 11-day tour begins in Philadelphia, which is characterized as the "Birthplace of Freedom," based on the fact that it was the site where both the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution were signed.
The tour will visit Amish country for a look at one way that religious freedom in America expressed itself. It will look into the Civil War through visits to Harper's Ferry; Richmond, Va.; and Gettysburg. And it will stop in the home of Thomas Jefferson, Monticello.
The tour also visits Jamestown and Williamsburg, Va., some of the earliest colonial developments, the home of Washington, without whitewashing the fact that both Washington and Jefferson were slaveholders.
The tour will be brought to its climax with a three-day stay at the Willard Hotel in Washington D.C., which has the unique distinction of being the place where Julia Ward Howe wrote the lyrics for "The Battle Hymn of the Republic."
Howe had heard soldiers singing the tune that was then going around with the lyrics "John Brown's body lies a mouldering in the grave, but his soul goes marching on."
Reverend James Freeman Clarke suggested to Howe that she write new lyrics for the tune to create a song that would stir men's souls and remind them what they were fighting for as they prepared to go into battle. In the middle of the night Nov. 18, 1861, Howe reported that she awoke in the night with the words of the song that would become "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" sounding in her head.
According to what she later wrote, "I went to bed that night as usual, and slept, according to my wont, quite soundly. I awoke in the gray of the morning twilight; and as I lay waiting for the dawn, the long lines of the desired poem began to twine themselves in my mind. Having thought out all the stanzas, I said to myself, 'I must get up and write these verses down, lest I fall asleep again and forget them.' So, with a sudden effort, I sprang out of bed, and found in the dimness an old stump of a pen which I remembered to have used the day before. I scrawled the verses almost without looking at the paper."
Perhaps there is some magic within the walls of the Willard because it was also the place where Martin Luther King completed his work on his "I Have a Dream" speech the night before he presented it at the climax of the 1963 March on Washington.
Other Tauck-Burns collaborations going back to 2010 include a Civil War event based in Washington D.C., a Jazz event based in New Orleans and a Chicago event based on Burns movies on Prohibition and Frank Lloyd Wright and an event in Cooperstown based on Baseball.
Burns and his writing partners Dayton Duncan have worked with Tauck tour developers to provide input into the creation of a series of Ken Burns American Journeys, which deal with destinations that are subjects of Burns' films such as "The National Parks: America's Best Idea," "The Civil War," "The Roosevelts," "Jazz," "Prohibition," "Baseball" and "Mark Twain."
Burns has also collaborated with Tauck to produce a series of short films that are shown on motorcoaches during some tours, such as trips to national parks, the Canadian Rockies and New Orleans.
The tour, "In Freedom's Footsteps," is priced from $4,790 per person, double occupancy, not including airfare.
David Cogswell is executive editor covering tours and packages, Africa and the Middle East.
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