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University News

Binding a new generation to this place

A modernized take on the original spot about Carolina based on Charles Kuralt's speech at the University's bicentennial in 1993.

What is it that binds us to this place?

Sometimes, it’s the memory of a favorite television commercial … with an updated twist, passed on to a new generation.

When North Carolina native Charles Kuralt joined President Bill Clinton in a packed Kenan Stadium to celebrate Carolina’s bicentennial in October 1993, the words he delivered were an instant, emotional hit. His baritone pulled so many heartstrings that a year later, Kuralt’s “What Is It That Binds Us To This Place” speech was the anchor of a new television commercial about his alma mater.

Like his “On the Road” series and 15-year stint hosting “Sunday Morning” for CBS News, Kuralt’s recollections of the crisp October nights and memory of dogwoods blooming in Chapel Hill lived on after his death in 1997. This fall, after a long hiatus, we’re bringing Kuralt’s famous speech back to the airwaves – and passing it on to a new era of Tar Heels who are carrying on the traditions his words made so perfectly clear.

The new TV spot still features Kuralt’s unmistakable timbre, but has several new variations on the original theme. Before, he spoke alone. Now, his voice mingles with the likes of men’s basketball assistant coach Hubert Davis, postdoctoral student Zeynep Yilmaz and recent Carolina graduate Shannon Smith. Campus icons like the Old Well and South Building still have a home in the new commercial, but so do places like Chapman Hall’s CHANL laband the Biomedical Research Imaging Center in Marsico Hall, which weren’t even built when the first commercial was on the air.

“This new, updated commercial does a great job of blending the UNC my family knows and loves from the past with the UNC of today,’’ said Kuralt’s nephew, Justin, who also attended Carolina. “Tradition and the next generation collide beautifully.”

Said Joel Curran, UNC-Chapel Hill’s Vice Chancellor of Communications and Public Affairs: “This contemporary view of a timeless classic blends the tradition and icons at Carolina with new imagery that reflects the growth of our campus over more than two decades. More importantly, we think Mr. Kuralt would have been pleased that his powerful words still hold resonance with the generations who came after him and will continue to carry on the tradition.”

Much has changed in Chapel Hill over the years, but the thing that binds us to this place is the same as it always was. In this new commercial, Carolina still is – as it was meant to be – “The University of the People.”