Monday, November 12, 2007

Brokaw promotes new book at UCSB


Calling himself “the most privileged person in America,” veteran NBC newsman Tom Brokaw shared some of the highlights of his 45 years in TV journalism for a packed audience at UCSB’s Campbell Hall Sunday morning.
“I have been witness to seismic changes in our history,” said Brokaw, who spoke in easy, jocular tones with the resonant voice that brought back his 21 years as the anchor and managing editor of the NBC Nightly News as one of the most trusted and respected figures in broadcast journalism.

Brokaw, who stepped down as anchor a month shy of three years ago, was in town both to promote his latest book, “Boom! Voices of the Sixties,” a kind of sequel to his huge 2001 bestseller “The Greatest Generation,” and to speak the previous evening at a private fundraiser for the planned Pierre Claeyssens Veterans Museum.
Brokaw touched on a huge swath of subjects in American history he had either witnessed or reported on since the 1940’s — including racism and segregation, the space race, the political assassinations of the 1960’s, the “transformational technology” of the Internet and satellite communications, and the current war in Iraq — but the common theme throughout was finding the shared experiences, the threads that connect everyone no matter what their background.
Borrowing from Stewart Brand’s “Whole Earth Catalog” — which featured the famous picture of the earth against the blackness of space shot from Apollo 8 as it emerged from the dark side of the moon in December 1968 – Brokaw said that “What connects, not what divides” should be “the mantra for the daunting times we face in the new century.”

He recalled how he began his stint at NBC in 1966 with an assignment to cover a little-known candidate for California governor named Ronald Reagan, whom he said had “an unerring instinct for where the country was going.”
He talked of how a cabdriver directed him to Haight-Asbury in San Francisco in 1967, during the “Summer of Love,” which he called “the ‘60s equivalent of the bar scene in ‘Star Wars.’” He was stunned when, despite his being “dressed like a narc,” the first girl he ran into offered him LSD on the spot. “That was the genesis of the rise of the counterculture in America, and I had the privilege of reporting on it for NBC.”
He briefly mentioned his famous interview with Soviet Premier Mikail Gorbachev and a much more recent one with rock star Bruce Springsteen, discussed hanging out with basketball star Michael Jordan and visiting the theater with actress Dianne Keaton. But he was most impressed, he said, by those such as the civil rights workers of the 1960s who put their own lives in danger to effect change, and of soldiers who then “re-enlisted as citizens” to make things better.
Brokaw talked a great deal about wars: World War II and the sacrifices and experiences of the “Greatest Generation,” Vietnam and the protestors who defined the ‘60s and early ‘70s, and, of course, the current quagmire in the Middle East.
Speaking on Veteran’s Day – the actual traditional holiday, although the official observance is today – Brokaw told story after anecdote about servicemen and women from throughout the era who continued into public service despite their experiences, difficulties and horrifying moments.
“Those of us who are home have not been asked to make any sacrifices — this time around,” he said. “No matter how you feel about the war – and there is every good reason to hate it (due to) so many promises that were empty or unfulfilled – we owe (the troops and their families) our solidarity….
“The least we can do is find a way to express to those (war) families our empathy, our concern and our willingness to help.”
Finally, seemingly addressing the students in the UCSB audience directly, he also cautioned that “Life is not a virtual experience. It’s about getting your boots on and getting your hands dirty.”

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