O’ Pioneers

December 17, 2009

I’m blown away by this particular commercial, not necessarily, because of what it is selling, but because of the recording.  The recording that of Walt Whitman’s poem on Manifest Destiny entitled “O’ Pioneers” is read with such fervor and feeling that one is compelled by the words that “Uncle Walt”  originally had written in his classic Leaves of Grass. 


Walt Whitman

This gentleman doing the reading is reportedly, Will Geer (1902 -1978) the noted actor and social activist.  Geer, however, did not start out pursuing a career in acting, but rather began going to school to become a botanist and even earned his Masters degree from Columbia in the subject. However, his desire to act overcame him and it ultimately led to a six decade pilgrimmage across riverboats, tent shows, Broadway, Hollywood, and television.  Will Geer even portrayed two of America’s greatest writers, Mark Twain and of course, Walt Whitman.

This man’s portrayal of Walt Whitman gives extra life to Walt Whitman’s words, so much so that the very commercial that is found above finds itself in the center of a major debate.  That debate fixates on the use of the Smithsonian Recordings of Will Geer reading Walt Whitman’s work to sell jeans.  I think that the commercial is exceptional and most of the time I’m oblivious to the fact that jeans are the center of attention in the ad. I’m completely captivated by the scenes of “America” and the voice that carries over all of it.  If anything, I believe that this series of commercials does more good for Walt Whitman and Walt’s works, which I know makes Mr. Keating happy.  Now if only we could do something for the remaining Dead Poets!

Robin Williams as Mr. Keating in Dead Poets Society

If you’re interested in the rest of Mr. Geer’s reading of this particular poem here is another video with the whole recording. If you’re interested in outdoing Mr. Geer here is the link to the poem itself, O Pioneers.


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