Lessandra MacHamer, a producer of “Today Show,” was assigned the grueling duty of selecting which centenarian birthdays Willard Scott would announce on his famous, long-running, daily segment. It saddened her that she could only include a small percentage of the country’s most rapidly growing and interesting group.
“I realized these people had so many stories to tell,” she said. “The depth of these stories doesn’t fit in a five-minute segment.
As a result, MacHamer decided to take a hiatus from “Today Show” to compile the life portraits of 100 American centenarians in a multimedia project aptly titled “American Wisdom.”
She’s working in conjunction with award-winning photographer Paul Mobley and videographer Joanna Hay to create a coffee table book, accompanying DVD and website. It’s possible the video component of this project will be used as material for a documentary and interactive, traveling museum exhibit. “American Wisdom” is scheduled for release October 2012.
The “American Wisdom” team was in Louisville two weeks ago interviewing and photographing two of the city’s very own centenarians, Mildred Manning and Clayton Marx. Both are residents of The Forum at Brookside, a retirement community.
Among the questions MacHamer asked interviewees were their secrets of longevity and the greatest invention of their lifetime. For longevity, Manning advised people to remain active and engaged.
Acknowledging the economic misfortune currently plaguing America, MacHamer is certain “American Wisdom” will serve as “inspiration that we’ll get through it by working together.” The centenarians she interviews are evidence of this. They persevered through the Great Depression.
Mobley hopes people will pick up on the positive nature of “American Wisdom.” “This book is about celebrating life,” he said. “These people are full of spirit. They’re the heroes of our lifetime, and people should take the time to listen to what they have to say.”
Mobley captures what’s unique and most vibrant in the individuals he’s photographing. “My goal is to find the souls of the subjects,” he said. “I’ve found that hands tell so much about their life.”
MacHamer is currently marketing to sponsors for funding. “The project will be a great vehicle for them to get involved with something that has such positive potential,” she said.
“American Wisdom” will highlight the hard-working nature and patriotism inherent in true Americans. “This book is about living life to the fullest,” said MacHamer. “It will be a renewed determination for American people today.”