Brokaw on The American Dream

Monday, October 31, 2011

Former anchor of the NBC Nightly News and author of The Greatest Generation, Tom Brokaw, talks about his new book, The Time of Our Lives: A conversation about America; Who we are, where we've been, and where we need to go now, to recapture the American dream.


Tom Brokaw

Comments [56]

roger dennis from uws

re e pluribus unum comment:

where's your integrity, tom?

Nov. 01 2011 07:41 PM

Interesting...A couple years ago, the young people of the U.S. Public Service Academy tried to get Mr. Brokaw to support their effort to build a "West Point for public service." Here's their site:

They wrote letters, they called, they implored him to support the idea. Nothing. Now he comes out with a similar idea with almost the exact same name -- and he's calling it his own? Hmm....

Nov. 01 2011 01:39 PM

work with, *johnson and johnson* ?? the same people, that bring us an unsustainable and ineffective, medical paradighm?! scrap that one, mr.brokaw,please.

Oct. 31 2011 07:55 PM

a nice man,but rather vapid and simplistic. he carries status quo water. a poisonous libation, brimming with lies and mediocrity.

Oct. 31 2011 07:43 PM

Americans have been at fault for not participating enough. We forgot that we are our government and responsible for what it does. We have been manipulated by the powers that be and we need to step up to the plate to take our country back. While two sides fight, our country is being robbed by the greedy and corrupt. Reasonable Americans need to open up a dialogue about how to get our country back on track. Occupy Wall Street is not a liberal thing, it is an American thing. The media wants to define it as such because they have much invested in keeping us divided - divide an conquer, while they take the loot = politicians, media moguls, and corrupt bankers. I was the last caller and I started The Movement to Restore Unity (FB and .org) last year to get moderates to start speaking up - it has been an uphill battle since everyone is so entrenched on either side -United we stand divided we fall - I have some conservative views and some liberal views but #1 is my country!

Oct. 31 2011 02:31 PM
Rembot from Eatontown NJ

Mr. Brokaw discussed establishing institutions for training and higher education of young people -- if he's looking for an available location, I suggest looking at the former Fort Monmouth in Eatontown, N.J. (Central Jersey). The modern, self-contained city was abandoned by the Army (thanks to Mr. Rumsfeld!) only last month and all 1100 acres of nicely maintained offices, laboratories, barracks, housing, stores, etc. is now just sitting there. It is a beautiful campus and will support several thousand occupants. It could be a new home to several different academies or schools, and formerly held the Army's prep school for West Point cadets. Worth a consideration.

Oct. 31 2011 01:04 PM
geTaylor from Bklyn.,NY

Mr. Brokaw:

I won't belabor the "blowhard" observations.

Too much nostalgia?

Well I'm sure they weren't like that "back in the day" - when the powers that be were able to "draft" various fellow citizens in the great deeds that needed doing or segregate dangerous populations(e.g., the American citizens of Japanese descent).

Was the high enlistment rate into the Armed Services was due to the availability of open offices on that fateful day on a weekend in December 1941.

Oh yeah - in keeping with the tenor of the times, what was your total pre-tax income for the last time you filed federal income taxes; how much federal income tax did you pay; and is there any explanation for why you should be earning an income that is above 99% of your fellow citizens?

My contribution to your bogus "public service academies" idea: 50% of the students should be "drafted" from the incoming classes of the elite Ivy League colleges and universities.

Oct. 31 2011 12:05 PM

@Frank from NYC: Are you sure it's the GGs? Sounds more like the Boomers, to me. Wikipedia gives the GG's DOBs as about 1901 to 1924. I agree that the AARP is too self-serving, but they recruit folks as young as 50 -- born in 1961!

Oct. 31 2011 11:54 AM

I hope you'll post the link that Christina in Morris County provides. I'd like to support her efforts to foster moderate conversations online.

Oct. 31 2011 11:45 AM
geo from astoria

this guy is making so much sense.
Why cant our politicians talk like this.
Why cant we have adult conversations like this. Its time we solve Americas problems and its not gonna happen if we act like little kids.

Oct. 31 2011 11:44 AM

Mr. Brokaw is absolutely correct in noting that people must have the right to vote "none of the above". However, simply not voting at all does not necessarily accomplish this, as such inaction could just as easily come from nothing more than apathy, indifference or laziness. In contrast, voting for a third-party, writing-in or simply writing something like "None of the above" on the ballot sends the message that one takes their civic responsibility seriously but does not find the choices given to be acceptable.

This is the only principled way to deal with elections in a system such as ours in which (at least the mainstream) candidates of _both_ major parties are bought and sold by the ruling corporate-military elite whose interests said candidates dutifully serve.

Oct. 31 2011 11:43 AM
Sherry from UWS

Does your guest feel any responsibility with his work in the media that turned a blind eye to things like the lead-up to the Iraq War and the real battle with Health Care?

Oct. 31 2011 11:43 AM
Eve from NJ

Plus the American people sacrificing during WWII and currently, or rather previously for the mistake of Iraq, are two different times and wars. Those in the know were not willing to sacrifice for a war they never supported which they knew was a huge mistake. However, all Americans are sacrificing now, like it or not, with the huge debt caused by that war. We will be paying for the Iraq war for many years to come.

Oct. 31 2011 11:41 AM
BJ from Manhattan

I love Mr. Brokaw's concept especially the mix of private and public support. When he spoke of nothing happening until after the next election, my first thought was that government by nature is a plodding short-sighted institution and frightened of anything beyond the status quo, especially if that change might not get our illustrious politicians re-elected. No matter that it would benefit the country in the long term. We need the private sector to step up and get this going. Having worked in a very 'for profit' business I feel sure that the private sector knows how to get a job done far more efficiently than the government.

Oct. 31 2011 11:41 AM
Phil from Park Slope

Weren't Ronald Reagan, George HW Bush, Phyllis Schlafly, Joseph McCarthy, J Edgar Hoover, and any number of other notorious characters also members of The Greatest Generation? We got where we are today VIA the Greatest Generation's history, choices and thinking. It is a bit of a reactionary oversimplification to suggest that everything was great right after world war II and went downhill after that.

Oct. 31 2011 11:37 AM
Hebba from UES

I don't understand his reasoning with the bias in news. We is the onus on FACT the audience. Everyone should be reporting facts. Bias is one thing but facts are what we are missing.

Oct. 31 2011 11:36 AM
Elaine from Baltimore

Another influence from Israel: I just read Start Up Nation about Israel's rise in high tech. One of the results of Israel young adults using their military experience in starting innovative technologies. It was an illuminating read.

Oct. 31 2011 11:36 AM
Eve from NJ

If by the "greatest generation" Brokaw means WWII veterans, that's one thing. If he means those who were children during that war, that's another story. This generation should be called "the misled generation." They were the warmongers who fell for attacking the wrong country, Iraq, and largely are misled by a particular cable non-news station daily. This generation believes everything they're told on Fox and does as they're told. It's scary since it seems their minds are no longer their own.

Oct. 31 2011 11:35 AM
Robert from NYC

Oh goodness Brian, sometimes you just waist our air time on scripted stuff.

Oct. 31 2011 11:35 AM
John A.

With "Network" add "Broadcast News" as one to see, for slightly different reasons. But both are Brilliant!
SNL just added a direct shot at Fox News as one of its parodies; let's hope they keep it.

Oct. 31 2011 11:34 AM

How about my generation's Barack Obama? He makes me exceedingly proud. Isn't he a distillation of traditional and radical values?

Oct. 31 2011 11:34 AM
Robert from NYC

Why did he thank TB for his service? He got / gets millions of bucks to do what he does! Did he serve in the armed forces or something.

Oct. 31 2011 11:32 AM
Mike from Manhattan

I would like to ask Mr. Brokaw if his call for Big, Bold Ideas as the only way to save our country in the future doesn't conflict with the ideology currently being pushed by a number of prospective presidential candidates and their financial backers. They seem to be saying that all collective action, such as government or labor unions, is evil and existing institutions based on this principle should be dismantled.

Oct. 31 2011 11:32 AM
The Truth from Becky

I saw a different side of brokaw this past election, I know longer feel the same as I used to about him...hopefully this segment ends post haste!

Oct. 31 2011 11:32 AM
Katharine from New York

Betty Friedan may have raised awareness of feminism, but she was also virulently anti-gay rights. She excluded lesbians and women of color from her movement.

Oct. 31 2011 11:31 AM

The national service idea is great, but why does it have to involve private corporations? The whole point of national service is to do something for a purpose greater than oneself -- the whole point of corporations is to MAKE A PROFIT. These two aims are mutually exclusive. Also -- "the Caterpillar 3rd world construction program"?? Augh! Come on! This is the punchline to a mediocre SNL sketch. Corporations already control much of the political process and that process is broken -- we need ideas to reduce corporate influence and involvement, not increase it.

Oct. 31 2011 11:31 AM
Robert from NYC

Yes Frank, you got it wrong. I think you're talking about my generation the post-GG, the baby boomers who you think want it all for ourselves. But you know we want it for all of us, us being us the BB and those who came after, i.e., you too. Don't put us all in AARP, that's a health care insurance company and they have their agenda and feel they speak not for us, the BBs but for themselves the insurance companies. It gets confusing and there's not enough space nor time to do it here but remember not all of us are AARP supporters fully.

Oct. 31 2011 11:31 AM

I agree with Frank the Greatest Generation moniker is offensive-I mean, segregation was still policy, as well as gender discrimination.

Brokaw just doesn't get it-creating another class of elites sponsored by the same corporations that buy influence in government is ridiculous. I can't believe you're giving him so much free publicity on.

Oh, and he's wrong-there certainly is something like the Great Depression-we, the 99% are living it, not the 1% like Brokaw.

Oct. 31 2011 11:30 AM

Of course the Tea Party is "organized", "focused", etc.... they were created-by and are funded and controlled by some of the wealthiest and most lubricious corporate interests.

This is well-documented. And yet, such a relevant, salient fact gets no mention whatsoever from either Mr. Brokaw or Mr. Lehrer.

And just last week, when Frank Rich was on the program and Brian said that both the Tea Party as well as Occupy Wall Street are angry at an elite but the difference between them is _which_ elite. There, as well, there was (incredibly) no mention that the Tea Party _is_ merely a front for the very elite that is responsible for the real grievances that fuel the anger of so many of the deluded, benighted individuals you see at the rallies, etc.

Oct. 31 2011 11:30 AM
Pete from uws

the greatest generation, who ironically gave birth to the worst generation...the baby boomers. of course they're ticked at that's all about them and always will be.

Oct. 31 2011 11:29 AM
Jean-Marc from Manhattan

It is breathtaking to me that this country does not have compulsory voting... I moved to New York 2 years ago from Australia... How can the US promote democracy around the world and accept a system that elects a government that only 40% of the population has voted for... no US government can claim to have a mandate until you introduce compulsory voting... the current system is apathy dressed up as freedom.

Oct. 31 2011 11:29 AM

Lord God almighty - I can't stand this pontificating blowhard. What a wind-bagging self-important fool.

Oct. 31 2011 11:28 AM
Thom from brooklyn

Does Mr. Brokaw agree that a draft helps the nation's population understand and feel the impact of a national choice to go to war, and that with a purely "professional" military the choice and conversation to go to war is no longer taken on by the nation's citizenry?

Oct. 31 2011 11:28 AM
Snoop from Brooklyn

I like much of what Mr. Brokaw has to say, especially the national service academies.

But, electronic voting is NOT a good idea. Electronic voting cannot be properly audited.

The only way to properly audit a voting process (and I mean oversight of the process by third parties such as members of the public and civil society) is to have some kind of paper. If you go to electronic voting, the possibility for playing with results is frighteningly easy.

If the US military, which has an enormous budget and is supposed to have one of the country's most secure computer systems, is constantly fighting (not always successfully) against viruses and incursions by hackers, what hope does the Podunk County Board of Elections have of keeping the bad guys out?

I let you figure out the answer to that one yourself.

Oct. 31 2011 11:27 AM
Robert from NYC

you leave out one factor here, they candidates. We don't really have a say in who the candidates will be in this 2 party system. A small group of party chiefs decide who will be the candidate to run in the primaries and sometimes we don't like who they select. So I say if you don't like the candidates, don't vote. I bought into the "lesser of two evils" crap long enough. I liked very much Obama, was very enthusiastic about him, he has failed. I don't want again and I certainly don't want any of the Rs so I will not vote if someone else isn't run against these two party selections. The non-vote says as much as the vote!! Third party and even fourth party candidates are not spoilers, they're another choice for those of us who may not like the other candidates. Let's grow up and get the show on the road, but not "again" rather "anew". Ok Tom, that life is over, it's time to grow up.

Oct. 31 2011 11:26 AM
Mr. Francis Zuccarello from New York, NY

Perhaps so many citizens would not feel that institutions have failed them if we didn’t have to hear comments on new reports such as, “The Networks giveth and the Networks taketh away,” to quote Mr. Brokaw on the night of the 2000 Election Theft.

Oct. 31 2011 11:25 AM
Phil from Park Slope

What do you do about the fact that current power structure is more interested in preserving the status quo by suppressing and discouraging voting than by expanding it? Expanding voting will only bring the true, changing demographics of the country to bear on the established power structure.

Oct. 31 2011 11:24 AM
John A. from US of A

OK, so what party is candidate Tom?
That question about the Bush presidency skewing against public giving was the perfect one; Thank-You.

Oct. 31 2011 11:23 AM

Listen to how much qualification Tom Brokaw had to give to his ideas. That he just wants to discuss them, that he is still contemplating.

Why does such a public figure have to do this? I think it's because so many people don't know how to rationally discuss anything. There is virtually no forum at all where someone can discuss an idea and not expect to get an emotional response. This is true whether on some dinky website, NPR, Facebook, national broadcasts, presidential elections.

Who can we blame for this? I am not one to always blame the media, but I think in this case we can. How long has media been putting on rude opinion shockers as we see so often on FOX and other network news? It's not the only reason by any means, but it definitely has lowered the state of rational discourse at every level.

Of course, one reason I like NPR so much is that they don't do this (or at least far less), regardless if I agree with the content or not.

Oct. 31 2011 11:21 AM
Phillipe from Brooklyn

I think Tom Brokaw is right on point; it's an idea that I've discuss with many friends over the years. Israel, Cyprus, Turkish and Scandinavian countries could be studied for ideas. In addition, we should have a medical corps for our country based on helping students who wish to study medicine pay for their schooling in return for a certain number of years of public service with a competitive salary. This could help to reduce health cost in this country.

Oct. 31 2011 11:21 AM
David from Fredericksburg, VA

I think it's a bad idea to try to force non-voters to vote. I'm constantly shocked & dismayed at the level of ignorance and apathy I encounter. The idea of people that know the entire cast of dancing with the stars but have no idea what the bill of rights are deciding who our elected officials are is scary.

Oct. 31 2011 11:21 AM
dan k from chelsea

people should be forced to vote, but be given the option to vote for nobody. also, they should be forced to choose between listing to an audio or reading, a 5 minute summary of each candidates positions on about 20-30 of the most important issues, before they vote.

Oct. 31 2011 11:21 AM
carolita from NYC

When I lived in France, I met so many people who'd done their "national service" and gained so much from it. A fashion photographer I met was inspired to become a photographer because of his assignments in national service. And because of his experience in the service, he could. National service can be experience to put on your CV, can change your life. I think it's a brilliant idea. When I graduated from High School, I had no vocation, and went to college just because it's what one does. Spent 24K of my parents' money, then left and traveled around the world as an illegal, broke for 11 years to get my life experience. I recommend that to those who can hack it, but a couple years of national service probably be better and more feasible for most.

Oct. 31 2011 11:21 AM
Chris from Brooklyn

Mr. Brokaw,

Mandatory voting and the right to "not vote" can be reconciled by requiring each ballot to have a "no confidence" or some other blanket disapproval option for each position.

Really, though, voting should be a national holiday. It's too important to squeeze between work, school, etc.

Oct. 31 2011 11:20 AM
MichaelB from Morningside Heights

Our nation went off the rails when, in reaction to the Vietnam War and the unfair application of the selective service law during that time, we abolished the draft and established the volunteer military.

We created a 2-class society in that stroke that we live with until today. No sacrifice is ever asked of most people, whilst others do the heavy lifting for them.

We either decide we need a military or not. If we do, EVERYONE should have to share in the burden and sacrifice to fulfill that need.

Oct. 31 2011 11:20 AM
Janet Moyers from south plainfield NJ

While I love your idea it is so different now.The returning GI's of WWII came home to the GI Bill and VA mortgages, today we have homeless vets and broken social contract with them. In 1970 the 'average' CEO's pay was 40 times the 'average' workers. Now it's 1000 times it, while the middle and lower-middle class workers pay has risen by just 4%. Unemployment is at 9%. That's 14 million Americans and that doesn't included the under-employed (those who need full time but can only find part time), those who've given up looking and those who have run out of unemployment benefits- making it more like 17%. The median duration of unemployment is also at an all time high. Add to that the loopholes that allow those making the most to pay a smaller percentage of their income in federal income tax than those who make far less and you've a recipe for discontent, to say the least. Then there are corporate taxes: in 2010 GE paid NO federal income tax, indeed the top 100 US companies paid at a rate of 6%, compared with the 35% most middle class families paid. 38% of US companies paid NONE!. In 2009 Exxon Mobil made $34.8 BILLION, paid NOTHING in income tax and claimed a benefit, i.e. GOT MONEY BACK-$838 MILLION.All of this while the 2011 poverty line for a family of four is $22,350. In 2009 the US minimum wage was the 11th lowest in the developed world. Even Saudi Arabia was higher (all were compared in International $). Never in our history have the rich and the poor in America been so far apart.Because of this EXTREME inequality the American Dream has become a nightmare for too many.

Oct. 31 2011 11:18 AM
Saul from New York, NY

In most (if not all) places where voting is mandatory, voters are NOT forced to cast a vote. Rather, they are required to turn out but then provided with an option to cast a blank ballot.

As such, their choice to abstain is not limited in the way that Brokaw suggested.

Oct. 31 2011 11:18 AM
Phoebe P. from Montclair, NJ

When George Bush started 2 wars, gave Americans a tax cut and a prescription drug plan all of which were not paid for and then prohibited pictures of our children coming back from battle in caskets from being shown, Mr. Bush told Americans that they didn't have to take responsibility for anything - the war wasn't owned by Americans, only by those brave children who chose to defend it and the rest of America should just keep the party going. I look to George Bush as a large part of the reason for today's entrenched partisanship and a lack of belief that we are ALL Americans who need to work together for the benefit of EVERY American.

Oct. 31 2011 11:18 AM
Richard Johnston from Manhattan upper west side

The French can vote "nul" (neither) or "blanc" (abstain/indifferent). Doing this would allow mandatory voting without obliging people to make a choice.

Oct. 31 2011 11:17 AM
MichaelB from Morningside Heights

Frank from NYC, I believe you are off target and misplaced.

Most of the CURRENT crop of AARP members were not yet adults during WWII or not born yet.

I don't know the numbers, but those who did serve have been dying off and are much older and just not those who are represented by those ads.

Oct. 31 2011 11:16 AM

Question for Tom Brokaw:

What has happened to the state of evening news? The sappy human interest or "hero" stories, the focus on celeb trials, and the ever diminishing coverage of world events. It's astonishing how weak evening network is these days. Why has this happened?

Oct. 31 2011 11:14 AM
Katherine Jackson

But the Tea Party has a simplistic idea of the "problem" and how to solve it, as Tom Brokaw must be aware. This is why Occupy Wall Street doesn't present a specific approach to "how to get there" as he put it. I wish that someone from the media, with as big a national reputation and reach as Mr. Brokaw, could give a somewhat more nuanced analysis of what's going on. Otherwise -- if the media does such a poor job of presenting the situation -- what, exactly, will his Academy of National Service accomplish?

Oct. 31 2011 11:14 AM
jmurphy from Floral Park, NY

Don't you think since 9-11 and with this country's new culture of fear, driven by terrorism and financial insecurity, Americans are too self-concerned to volunteer their service to others?

Oct. 31 2011 11:12 AM
MichaelB from Morningside Heights

I'm in the middle of reading Matt Taibi's (sp?) new book "Griftopia" and it is very depressing and distressing. I always resisted allowing myself to become cynical, but if even a fraction of what he documents is true, our country is in a sorry state.

Some of our citizens have been plundering and selling the country out, leaving the rest of us to suffer with the mess they've left.

And that includes the political class as well as the Wall Street crowd.

Oct. 31 2011 11:11 AM
Frank from NYC

Beyond the fact that I find the moniker "Greatest Generation" offensive, I feel it's also factually incorrect. The GG stripped the country clean, in a we got ours, screw the younger generations mentality. Proof: Look at how the AARP operates in Washington... and that latest threatening TV commercial with the "we're watching you" Congress message.

Oct. 31 2011 11:10 AM
Benny from LES

Hi Brian,

It is great hearing from Tom. I think his idea is wonderful, but given his relation to the media I wonder what he feels the media's responsibility is? Isn't news supposed to be a public service? Its so hard to figure out what good our media is after the lead-up to Iraq.

Oct. 31 2011 11:10 AM

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