Brokaw: 'They saved the world, nothing less' Tom Brokaw returned to his alma mater Friday to participate in the W.O. Farber Center for Civic Leadership, a conference in which members of the World War III generation addressed issues of citizenship, leadership and character with their Baby Boomer counterparts. Brokaw, author of the best-selling The Greatest Generation, a book on the sacrifices of the World War II generation, spoke early Friday afternoon in Slagle Auditorium. by M. Jill Sundstrom As a new millennium bears down upon us, Tom Brokaw says today�s generation must focus beyond narrow self interest, building strength out of community and common destiny, much like what Brokaw calls the �greatest generation� of the Great Depression and World War II.
Speaking at The University of South Dakota April 16 to an audience who came to hear him address the World War II Conference hosted by the W.O. Farber Center for Civic Leadership, the NBC Nightly News anchorman praised the greatest generation, the subject of his best-selling book.
�They saved the world. Nothing less than that,� he said. �Each of us here today is a beneficiary of the sacrifices of those times, but most of all that idea that we have a common purpose, whatever individual ideas there may be.
�Individual freedom. When we think of what the world was like at the beginning of the 20th century and now what it�s like at the end of that century, the most powerful idea is that of freedom,� Brokaw continued. �And the generation about which I wrote provided the underpinnings for that idea and it only flourished and expanded in the 50 years after the end of the war.�
Brokaw added that �we should be proud patrons of the idea of freedom as the new millennium is upon us.�
But this is a challenging time for America.
�We�re back to sailing uncharted seas because the changes of the world are so profound,� Brokaw said. �The future is so uncertain. The challenge we face now is who we are and what we want for our place in the world. It is a testing time for America.�
Brokaw is concerned that there is �almost no regard for common ground� in these times of narrow focus on self interest. There is no civil rights movement, no Vietnam, no Watergate, Ronald Reagan or John F. Kennedy to capture America�s attention, he said.
The Clinton/Lewinsky scandal was one without anyone to cheer for, Brokaw added, �from Clinton�s reckless behavior, compounded by lies, to Kenneth Starr�s zealotry and the Republican fervor to air every detail whether it fit the scenario or not. And the media was caught up in a giant game of ?gotcha.� �
Still, Brokaw calls this an exciting, dynamic time for America, a country which must build upon its distinctions of cultural diversity and industrial achievements.
�Wherever we live, whatever our faith or economic interest in this great melting pot of a nation, we have a common destiny,� Brokaw said. �That is the legacy of the greatest generation. We should not shirk from sharing what we�ve earned and learned with the rest of the world.
�We�ve been tested before with what we hoped was the last great war,� he continued. �We�ve survived other wars and constitutional crises, and we�ve emerged whole and strong from the impeachment process of the past year. We are a robust nation that has the best the world has to offer.
�We owe it to ourselves and the greatest generation to seize this moment and raise our standards to the next level so that 50 years from now, another University of South Dakota graduate can write a book and say that, too, was another greatest generation.�