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LeVar Burton: Having ‘Jeopardy!’ Hosted by Person of Color Is ‘Good for America’

Burton: "It’s a milestone marker on this journey toward wholeness that the great American experiment is supposed to be about."

LeVar Burton

LeVar Burton

Peter Barreras/Invision/AP

Nearly a decade after first tweeting that hosting “Jeopardy!” would be his dream job, LeVar Burton is finally taking the podium this week to guest host the iconic quiz show. The former “Reading Rainbow” host and “Roots” star has been a fan favorite to take over “Jeopardy!” hosting duties following Alex Trebek’s passing earlier this year. An online petition calling for Burton’s permanent hiring has amassed over 253,000 signatures and counting. In an interview with Esquire, Burton stressed the significance of him stepping into the role of “Jeopardy” host. The actor previously told The New York Times that “for a Black man to occupy that podium is significant.”

“It’s significant in the same sense that Barack Obama was elected president of the United States in 2008,” Burton added to Esquire. “‘Jeopardy!’ occupies a singular place in American culture. To have a person of color or a marginalized person standing behind that podium is good for America. It means something. It’s a milestone marker on this journey toward wholeness that the great American experiment is supposed to be about.”

When asked by Esquire what will be unique to his approach to hosting the show, Burton answered, “I have no idea. I hope that I was able to communicate my deep level of love for the game, for the show, and for Alex—and to further demonstrate my love of knowledge, learning, education, and information. We live in a world where facts are, for some reason, subject to interpretation, these days. ‘Jeopardy!’ is the one place in American life where we agree every night that the responses to those answers are the truth. There’s no debate. There’s no politicization of the facts on ‘Jeopardy!'”

Burton added, “We can all agree that in this space, for this one half an hour, everyone in America can spend that time with their family, and enjoy and be enriched at the same time. I’d pay for that privilege every night if I had to.”

“Jeopardy” will feature Burton as a guest host from July 26 through July 30. While he’s in the dark about his “Jeopardy!” future beyond his week-long guest host stint, he is open to becoming the permanent host should the producers choose him.

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