The Stanly News and Press (Albemarle, NC)

Opinion & Letters to the Editor

July 4, 2014

Great generation and a great title

Thursday, July 3, 2014 —  “It turned out to be a hell-of-a book title.”

Tom Brokaw, former NBC News anchor and productive author, was talking, with his usual modesty, about “The Greatest Generation.”

It is the title of his 1998 best-selling book and the identification of the Americans who, after serving in World War II, came home to lead our country through an era of progress and prosperity.

Last week, 16 years after the book’s publication, Brokaw talked about it with author Roger Rosenblatt at Chautauqua Institution in New York State, where I was on vacation.

In his book, Brokaw explained how his passion for this generation developed.

“In the spring of 1984, I went to the northwest of France, to Normandy, to prepare an NBC documentary on the 40th anniversary of D-Day. There, I underwent a life-changing experience. As I walked the beaches with the American veterans who had returned for this anniversary, men in their 60s and 70s, and listened to their stories, I was deeply moved and profoundly grateful for all they had done. Ten years later, I returned to Normandy for the 50th anniversary of the invasion, and by then I had come to understand what this generation of Americans meant to history. It is, I believe, the greatest generation any society has ever produced.”

With the 70th anniversary of D-Day just past, there are few survivors of the Greatest Generation. Those still with us are pushing into their 90s.

Brokaw is fighting a life-threatening illness. At 74, he is older than most of the veterans he met on the Normandy beaches in 1984 and whom he characterized then as reaching the twilight of their years. So, as the Greatest Generation passes on and Brokaw reaches his own twilight time of life, his reflections take on a somber poignancy.

Brokaw sticks to his book’s classic description of the World War II vets: “A grateful nation made it possible for more of them to attend college than any society had ever educated, anywhere. They gave the world new science, literature, art, industry and economic strength unparalleled in the long curve of history.”

Even more moving for me were his words last week about his father who, like other members of the Greatest Generation, also fought poverty and the challenges of the Great Depression. His father grew up in hardscrabble circumstances, “essentially turned out when he was 10 years old.” Although he had a learning disability, he could fix engines and he worked hard.

Brokaw used a story about legendary radio broadcaster Paul Harvey to describe his father’s place in the Greatest Generation and Brokaw’s heart.

His father was a Paul Harvey fan and would sometimes send Brokaw into a rage by suggesting Harvey would be a good role model.

At his father’s funeral, when friends were telling him about how he had fixed their cars and been such a presence in their lives, one of them said he had been listening to Paul Harvey.

Brokaw was dismissive until he heard what Harvey said. “Take a moment and remember Anthony ‘Red’ Brokaw being buried today in South Dakota, a longtime construction worker, a master of heavy machinery, and his son Tom will begin ‘Nightly News’ next week, but how proud his dad must have been that his working-class life would produce someone like Tom Brokaw.”

Brokaw did not know Paul Harvey but called to ask, “What motivated you?”

Harvey replied, “I saw it on the broadcast wire and I just thought about his life growing up in the depression, during the war a construction worker, and then you have the success that you had and you know that is the American dream, and your dad deserved a lot of the credit.”

Brokaw then told Harvey, “If you ever need anything in life, Mr. Harvey, you call me.”

D.G. Martin hosts “North Carolina Bookwatch,” which airs Sundays at 12 p.m. and Thursdays at 5 p.m. on UNC-TV.

1
Text Only
Opinion & Letters to the Editor
  • Schyler Martin As wonderful as Ireland was, there’s just no place like home

    I expected a lot of things from my six-week study abroad program in Dublin, Ireland.
    I expected to miss family and friends, I expected to see a lot of things that I’d never seen before and I expected, more than anything else, to yearn for sweet tea. For the record, I did miss sweet tea quite terribly.

    August 1, 2014 3 Photos

  • taylor.armerding.jpg Impeachment arms Democrats, doesn't end the Obama disaster

    Republicans may have grounds to impeach President Barack Obama but they would be daft to pursue a case they cannot win in a Senate controlled by Democrats. Impeachment would only drive the Democrats' fundraising and potentially squander the GOP's best opportunity in years to capture both houses of Congress then, in two years, the White House.

    August 1, 2014 1 Photo

  • Brent Laurenz Wrangling over pay for teachers

    RALEIGH – When the N.C. General Assembly reconvened in mid-May, there was talk of a short, efficient session.

    August 1, 2014 1 Photo

  • Medical marijuana opponents' most powerful argument is at odds with a mountain of research

    Opponents of marijuana legalization are rapidly losing the battle for hearts and minds. Simply put, the public understands that however you measure the consequences of marijuana use, the drug is significantly less harmful to users and society than tobacco or alcohol.

    August 1, 2014

  • Patrick Gannon Two sides in debate about film incentives

    RALEIGH – It’s looking like the current film incentives program may be scrapped for a much different grant program for TV and movie production companies.

    August 1, 2014 1 Photo

  • D.G. Martin Read others’ views to be better informed, decide for yourself

    “I don’t read The Washington Post. That is not where I get my ideas.”

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • Patrick Gannon This isn’t medical marijuana

    As state legislators debated allowing the use of an extract from marijuana plants to treat seizure disorders over the past couple of weeks, it was evident that social conservatives – there are many of them in the General Assembly – felt a tinge of unease about it, even as almost every one of them voted yes.

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • Doug Creamer Friends and contentment

    Last week I made my annual trip up the mountain to Sparta. My friends have a secluded home near a babbling brook. Their home and property are a haven for peace. It’s a two-plus hour ride to their home that doesn’t feel that long because I look so forward to my time with this great couple. When I arrive, the conversation seems to pick up right where we left it the last time we saw each other.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • Thanks for the honest deed

    I would like to thank the person that found my wallet in the parking lot of Harris Teeter on July 23 and turned it in to the Albemarle Police.

    July 29, 2014

  • cleaning supplies Don't judge mothers with messy homes

    I was building shelves in my garage when a neighbor girl, one of my 4-year-old daughter's friends, approached me and said, "I just saw in your house. It's pretty dirty. Norah's mommy needs to clean more."

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

House Ads
Seasonal Content