Brokaw to discuss career, concerns for graduates

by Dax Tejera | 6/12/05 5:00am

Six months after relinquishing his anchor seat, veteran television journalist Tom Brokaw will travel to Dartmouth to receive an honorary degree from the College and deliver the principal address at this year's commencement ceremonies.

Brokaw was anchor and managing editor of NBC Nightly News for 21 years before stepping down last December. His departure from the highly-acclaimed network news program seemed to signal the end of a broadcasting generation. Shortly after Brokaw retired, CBS's Dan Rather relinquished his anchor chair in the aftermath of a controversial report involving President Bush's Air National Guard service, and ABC's Peter Jennings may soon retire as he struggles with lung cancer, diagnosed in April.

In an interview with The Dartmouth, Brokaw said he has been "a little bit more active than I had originally anticipated," concerning his post-NBC life. Besides extensive traveling, television appearances, and a new book in the works, Brokaw said that "from time to time" he still pitches story suggestions to the Nightly News team.

"I'm grateful that they at least pretend like they're still interested in what I have to say," Brokaw joked.

Though he admitted to remaining in close contact with the broadcast's staff and his successor Brian Williams, Brokaw said he remains confident in the team he left behind and has been "very impressed" with the broadcast since his departure.

While Brokaw's honorary degree will be his first from Dartmouth, his travel to Hanover is far from inaugural. Brokaw recalled several visits to Hanover over the course of his daughter's studies at Dartmouth Medical School during the early 1990s.

"We loved Hanover and [its] neighboring provinces," Brokaw said. "It's a great area."

Born and raised in Webster, South Dakota, Brokaw graduated from the University of South Dakota in 1962, receiving a Bachelor of Arts degree, which his friends denigrated, in jest, as an honorary degree. Brokaw recalled a "rocky beginning" to his college career before making a "pretty good recovery" by his own commencement.

In recalling the stories of his college youth, Brokaw noted characteristics of a distinctive nation during the late 1950s and early 1960s.

"It was a different time," Brokaw said. "The country was a lot more innocent."

Brokaw identified several watersheds that came in the wake of his college experience and altered the nation's character, among them the Vietnam War and Civil Rights movement. He also recalled a saturated job market and lower costs of living.

"All things seemed possible -- especially if you were a white male," Brokaw said.

Forty-three years later, Brokaw said he believes that information technology is having the most far-reaching impact on today's graduates.

"It has shrunk the world in a way that I could never have imagined,"

Brokaw said about modern technology. He noted the large changes by remembering the time he spent waiting in South Dakota for The New York Times, which would arrive four days after its publication.

Brokaw described his generation's greatest struggle as the Cold War and the possibility of nuclear war. Today he believes the challenge for today's graduates will be adjusting "to the reality of the world of have and have-nots."

"It's something that kind of crept up on us unexpectedly," Brokaw said. "But it's real, and it involves a lot of people."

As the world's Muslim population continues to grow and radical Islam remains at odds with the "Western ideal," Brokaw said the United States will be increasingly threatened.

"Too many [Muslims] will be living in economically and politically oppressive regimes where they're influenced by mullahs who say the way to express your spiritual and national pride is to attack the United States," Brokaw explained.

Brokaw expressed greater concern, however, with evidence that this generation of graduates is less likely to commit itself to relevant studies that will aid the United States in its global challenges.

"I find less of a commitment within this generation to Arabic studies, the Islamic culture ... [and] how it is possible that we have this kind of enmity between these worlds at this stage in our lives," Brokaw said.

In his estimation, America's efforts against terrorism must be countered with the same tenacity that his generation demonstrated during the Cold War, adding that he hopes to see this generation dedicate itself to public service.

"I'd like to see them much more involved in the public arena," Brokaw said while mentioning NGOs and other less traditional avenues for public involvement.

Brokaw arrives in Hanover on Commencement day, June 12, and plans to leave later that afternoon. When asked why he supposed the College chose to tap him for a degree and address, Brokaw said he suspected that a mutual friend of his and College President James Wright "teamed up" with Wright to invite Brokaw.

"I was flattered to be asked," Brokaw said.