Post-Brokaw Notes

Backstage notes from tonight's program with Tom Brokaw

- I thought Brokaw was terrific--definitely one of our best speakers.  To me, he was up there with Colin Powell, Woodward and Bernstein, Ken Burns and Doris Kearns Goodwin.  He was also an incredibly gracious person.

- At the risk of editorializing a little, I think Brokaw is right about us "losing our balance" somewhat with our political dialogue.  The tragedy in Arizona is really just one, albeit horrific and stark, example of that.  I had the same reaction he did about pundits on both sides eager to ascribe a political motive to the shooter.  As I breezed through the internet over the weekend, I thought it was in incredibly poor taste that within hours of the incident, Mother Jones had a story implying the conservative philosophy was somehow to blame, and the Weekly Standard posted a story implying the same of liberals and progressives.  A measured perspective like Brokaw's is something we could all use more of.  I loved his comments about Dr. King seldom raising his voice and revolutionizing the nation.  I have seen where some on the conservative side of the ledger have criticized his comments from the last 24 hours as being partisan and left wing.  As a right-leaning person myself, I just didn't hear it that way, either in my personal conversations with him, or his comments to the audience.

- It strikes me that because of his work on The Greatest Generation, many seem to expect him to have disparaging things to say about the current generation.  It seems implicit in some of the questions he got and personal comments from those who spoke with him.  His comments on this subject center around all the current generation has the chance yet to be.  In that same vein, I found his comments about the Baby Boom generation interesting.  For all of his deference to the Civil Rights movement, new perspective on war and the like, Brokaw clearly believes that Baby Boomers in general have become somewhat consumption oriented and insulated from current problems.

- As something of an amateur Reagan historian, I was, of course, interested in his comments about the 40th President.  He talked over dinner about how Reagan's two terms as Governor, dealing with Jesse Unruh and the California legislature, prepared him better than many understood for being President and dealing with the U.S. Congress.  It is interesting to me that in their visits to Newsmakers, Brokaw, Bob Schieffer, Lesley Stahl and Colin Powell all had anecdotes about Reagan that were central to their talks.  One can recall when it was downright hip to criticize the Gipper as being unintelligent, superficial and the like.  As Schieffer so much as admitted in his most recent book, however, time seems to have given even some of the skeptics in the news media a fresh perspective on the former President.  Brokaw also mentioned over dinner that he spoke with Nancy Reagan on the phone only yesterday, and will be appearing soon at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley.

- Someone backstage asked him if he collaborates with anyone in writing his books, and he said no.  He writes them all himself, and in the case of The Greatest Generation, it took him about nine months with the help of a researcher.  He also made mention of what great records the military keeps on people, and his ability to track people down using their resources.

- I thought Tori Campbell from KTVU did a great job for us tonight.  In the small world category, Tori's father was editor of a tennis magazine and was interviewed by Brokaw on The Today Show.

- It was nice to have the La Russas with us tonight.  Brokaw told Tony a cute story about going to Game 3 of the 2007 World Series with his friend, Bob Costas.  Costas hosted Brokaw in St. Louis, where they rooted on Tony's Cardinals while sitting behind the bench of the Boston Red Sox.  The Sox swept the Cards, a fact Tony did not need to be reminded of.  

- As with his on-stage presentation, Brokaw tells riveting stories one-on-one about people he has met, particularly those who have given extraordinary military service.  

- I thought his comments about journalism were interesting, encouraging young people who want to pursue that field to specialize and become a subject matter expert in a particular area, rather than treating marketing or communications as an academic pursuit in and of itself.  I'm also struck by his encouraging young people to pursue science.  When Robert Ballard and Sally Ride gave that message, I expected it.  It is interesting that he also holds that view.


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