learning from tom brokaw

This morning, I had the amazing opportunity to attend a Distinguished Speaker event featuring Tom Brokaw, famed NBC Nightly News anchor and author of several best-selling books.  Seriously guys, Tom Brokaw.  He actually is a person, not just a face that popped up on the TV every night for 30 years, and I got to listen to him.

I am a little too young to have grown accustomed to Tom Brokaw appearing in my family room for years, but I have read his book Boom!, a look back at the Sixties and their effect on the US today, which I found wonderful and a surprising page-turner.  As someone who, unfortunately, was not alive for the 1960s, I thought Tom’s book was a fascinating look at the events from someone who, as a young journalist, was literally RIGHT THERE for everything.  I was very excited to attend one of his events, and was not let down.

The speaker series is focused on leadership, so Tom (I would say we’re on a first-name basis now) opened with a list of the people he has interviewed who exemplify true qualities of leadership.  He of course included the high-profile “movers and shakers”: Ronald Reagan; Bobby Kennedy; Dr. King; Steve Jobs; Lance Armstrong.  But he also mentioned other lesser known people, those who do good every day without expecting a single act of recognition: surgeons in Doctors Without Borders; civil rights activists; members of the military.  As he talked, I was drawn to his hands, which were wrinkled and swollen with arthrytis.  Think of all the hands those gnarled fingers have shaken!!  It’s hard to wrap my head around the vast number of remarkable people Tom has rubbed shoulders with; around the number of average families who ate dinner every night with him on the television.  Compared to Tom’s incredible life, what do I really have to say for myself?  Blood grosses me out, so I will never join Doctors Without Borders.  The Civil Rights Movement is over, so I can’t participate in that either.  And as for joining the military– well, I’m pretty sure I would make a terrible soldier.

As to be expected from a newscaster, Tom is an impeccable speaker.  He spoke for an hour without a single “um,” and even when fielding questions, was able to maintain a constant flow of conversation and an intelligible thought process.  He was entertaining, informative, and motivating all at the same time, without ever seeming condescending or overbearing.  I felt like I was in the presence of a master, which I absolutely was.

Because of the location and high security level at the event, I was not allowed to take any photographs.  But I did receive a FREE copy of Tom’s bestseller The Greatest Generation, which I am very excited to read.  Considering that I now have a humongous intellectual crush on Tom, I’m sure I will love the book and sing his praises forever on my blog.


Did you watch Tom Brokaw on the Nightly News??

Not really.  I was only in 8th grade when Tom retired from NBC, and was much more concerned with AIM and my Old Navy overalls.


2 Responses

  1. Wow, sounds like it was really a wonderful experience! Reminds me of getting to see Jack Anderson at a small reception while i was at college.

  2. Fun! I think leaders are people who devote their time to helping others, thinking of the greater good over their needs. I never watched Tom, but might read some of his books now.

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