Tom Brokaw
Tom Brokaw
Blog
The Greatest Generation
ISBN: 0375502025
The Greatest Generation
One of NBC's most famous anchormen celebrates the greatest generation in history — Americans born in the 1920s who came of age during the Great Depression, fought in World War II, and went on to build America. The Greatest Generation will be also be the subject of a concurrent NBC-TV show.
—from the publisher's website
Search Audible
TRANSCRIPT
The Greatest Generation
Program Air Date: March 7, 1999

BRIAN LAMB, HOST: Tom Brokaw, author of "The Greatest Generation." One of the things you mention in this book is that you were governor of Boys State in South Dakota.
Mr. TOM BROKAW, AUTHOR, "THE GREATEST GENERATION": Yes.
LAMB: What year?
Mr. BROKAW: 1957, actually. It was the--kind of a highlight of my high school years. It was a--it was a real step for me. As you know, in the Midwest, that's a very big deal, and I was elected governor.
LAMB: How did you get into it in the first place?
Mr. BROKAW: Well, I was very active in student politics and student athletics. I kind of wanted to be in the swim of wherever I was and I had not lived in this town very long of Yankton, and I was a junior, and they picked me as one of five to go and I went. And we had a little political coup d’état within my party and we pulled this off. Curiously enough, I met that day, and the man became my lieutenant governor--we formed this ticket. His name is Robert Legvold, who now is very well-known as a Soviet affairs expert. He shows up on NBC and ABC and he is from the Harriman Institute at Columbia for Soviet Affairs. So we think--we were a fairly strong ticket. He took care of foreign policy and I took care of domestic affairs.
LAMB: Well, if you were governor, then, did you go to Boys Nation?
Mr. BROKAW: No, we had separate people go to Boys Nation in those days but my wife, Meredith, went to Girls Nation, and when she came home we were all very excited because she got to meet Dwight Eisenhower. And I said, `What was that like?' And she said, `Well, he had rosy, little cheeks; he looked like a grandfather to me but I was in the Rose Garden.' And I--we thought, at that time--Meredith and I were just great friends--I thought `That's as close as I'm ever going to get to a president of the United States is that my friend Meredith saw Dwight Eisenhower in the Rose Garden.'
LAMB: And you were going to school where at that time?
Mr. BROKAW: Well, we were in Yankton High School. It's a small town on the Missouri River. It was a former territorial capital of the Dakotas. It was, for me, a very big deal to move to a town of that size, 400 kids in high school and a real Main Street and all that other stuff. And it was a--it was very fortuitous. I not only met Meredith there but I still call it home. I'm rooted there. My father is buried there. My mother will be buried there. So it's an important place for me.
LAMB: How did you and your wife meet?
Mr. BROKAW: Well, Brian, you're not going to believe this, but we met the summer before I moved there because my roommate at a summer camp where we were working as Boy Scouts had her picture in his trombone case. And he would open up the trombone case every night and take out the picture of this girlfriend, Meredith Auld, and I'd have to stare at the picture with him and he'd kind of look at it moonily and then midway through the summer she wrote him a `Dear John.' We wrote a withering reply to her. And I had no idea that I would be moving to Yankton, and my parents came to me at the end of that summer--we worked in construction and they said, `We're moving to Yankton.' And I thought `Well, I know really two people. I know my roommate and I know this girl in the trombone case.' And I went to the swimming pool the first weekend I was there and there was this lifeguard who was the girl in the trombone case.

Now that man, Eldon Eisenach, went on to get his PhD, went to Harvard on an academic scholarship, and teaches now at the University of Tulsa where he's the academic dean. And when she turned 50 I brought him in as a surprise guest to tell the story to all of her friends. It was great fun. That's more than you wanted to know, but that's how I met her.
LAMB: How do you feel--I mean, you write about the greatest generation and one of the things you talk about is how loyal they were to each other and marriages lasted. How has your marriage lasted all these years?
Mr. BROKAW: I think, in part, because we're deeply in love. We were when we got married and it's stayed that way. And I also believe that given the kind of life that I have, the public life that I have, is that Meredith intuitively and wisely has her own life and she has her own accomplishments. She's a very successful businesswoman in New York. She had a chain of toy stores that did very well and then she sold them to the employees. She's written children's books. She's an accomplished horsewoman now. She always went off on her own track. She was proud of what I did, but not absorbed by it. That's what I did for a living and I think it was important to our three daughters to see this strongly independent woman as well. And we've always given each other lots of latitude because there's a kind of inherent trust that goes on. We've known each other so long and so well for a long time that she can go off and do things for Conservation International, which is one of her passions, or go to the ranch and I go off in other directions with my friends, and we don't worry about the relationship in any way deteriorating. It just gets stronger as a result of that.
LAMB: How old are your daughters?
Mr. BROKAW: Our eldest daughter is 32, and then we have one 30 and one 28. The oldest daughter is an emergency room physician in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and the mother of a granddaughter and about to be a second one. Our middle daughter is a record company executive in Los Angeles and the youngest one is a psychiatric social worker in New York and she has a master’s degree from NYU. We had one--the two oldest ones, curious--at one time, the oldest one was at Stanford when the middle one was at Berkeley and I spoke at Berkeley and said, `It's like having one who's a member of The Grateful Dead and the other one is a member of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.' Well, Berkeley liked that but Stanford wasn't too pleased with the metaphor.
LAMB: Go back to Boys State for a moment. How did you get there in the first place?
Mr. BROKAW: Well, I guess because I was kind of one of the honor students. I--you know, I was involved in athletics and then student government. I was a junior class president and president of the student council that year. I was not a great athlete, but I was the--you know, I was a player. And I was involved in all--in a lot of things and I voiced it--politics always interested me so I was eager to go. I thought that was a wonderful experience. And when I got there, it proved to be that. I mean, I made lifelong friends and saw how it worked. I had a kind of political instinct about how I could get to where I wanted to get to and we did form this little group. There was a kind of an organization in place and some of us sandbagged them, in a matter of speaking, and got the nomination, and went on to win triumphantly. And the man that I defeated became a very good friend of mine. He went on to Harvard and we haven't seen each other in a number of years, but we saw each other through the course of high school.
LAMB: The American Legion sponsors that.
Mr. BROKAW: The American Legion sponsored it and the American Legion was an important part of my life because I played American Legion baseball. I have this wonderful picture of me at home in my American Legion baseball uniform. They also had oratory contests in those days but I didn't--I must say, Brian, I didn't think about them in terms of their war experiences. You know, they were the--they were the men who got things done in town, so to speak. And there was always a legion hall wherever I lived and there was these American Legion baseball teams. They did sponsor Boys State. I went back for the 50th anniversary of South Dakota Boys State and had a wonderful time, a reunion with a lot of people.
LAMB: What do they teach you, though?
Mr. BROKAW: Well, they taught us that participation was important, that you know, if you want to do something about your life, you have to get involved in politics and in government and this is how it works. And it--you probably know, but at Boys State what you do is you start at the municipal and county level and in the course of a week work your way up the state level very swiftly. But you learn about caucuses and party caucuses and organization of county government and then state government, who runs for office, what makes a campaign successful, and my own guess is that it launched a lot of people into a political career. I've said to--Mack McLarty was the chief of staff at the beginning of Bill Clinton's administration--he was governor of Arkansas Boys State the year after, I think--or a couple of years after I was in South Dakota, and Bill Clinton, of course, went to Boys Nation. So politics is rife with people who have those experiences.
LAMB: In your book there's this picture of Jean and Anthony "Red" Brokaw. What did they have to do with getting you to Boys State?
Mr. BROKAW: Oh, they grounded me in ways--it's hard for me to describe in a few words, they were--my parents came from a very difficult working-class background. My mother grew up on a farm. And my father grew up on a--kind of a large, rambunctious family and he went to work, really, at the age of 10. Dropped out of the third grade to go to work because he had to. And my mother was a very bright and bookish woman, but the family lost everything in the Great Depression. They moved to a small town. She graduated from high school at 16. Could not go to college because she couldn't afford it. But all the time that I was growing up, it was--I was secure in our family and they gave me lots of support and praise but also--they--you know, they put limits on what I could do constantly. I had a very bad patch when I was in college, first two years I was in college, I kind of fell off the radar screen, you know, majored in beer and co-eds.
LAMB: Where?
Mr. BROKAW: Well, University of Iowa first, and then at the University of South Dakota. Couldn't get my act together. And my parents, who had never had anyone go to college, so this was a new experience for them, were mystified but at once understanding and stern. At one point I was going to go to California and my dad stood in the door and said, `No, you're not. You're not going to California. You're going to figure this out and go back to school.' Well, I was furious. I was 20 years old. I thought I could make my own decisions. He was dead right.
LAMB: What did you study? What was your major?
Mr. BROKAW: Political science. Thought I would be a lawyer. I had a very funny experience when I was at Iowa. And I'd come out of high school as a whiz kid, you know, great grades and been recruited by Harvard and, you know--and other schools like that but I wanted to go to a Big Ten school and see football games and see the co-eds and many, many years later I was working on the floor of the convention here in New York, at the Democratic Convention, and a member of the Iowa delegation came over to me and I recognized him immediately and he said, `Tom, I'm Professor Don Johnston.' And I said, `Yes, I know that.' He said, `Someone told me that I was your professor.' And I said, `That's true. You were.' And he said, `I went back and looked up your grade record. I only have one question? Was it my fault or yours?' And I said, `It was all mine. Don't worry about it, Dr. Johnston.'
LAMB: This is a photo in your book also--Tom Brokaw with Joe Foss. Where are you appearing here? That's you on the right, by the way.
Mr. BROKAW: Yes, well, you can tell that in the crewcut and the earnest suit. I bought that suit in Rochester, Minnesota, just for the trip. Joe Foss was the governor of South Dakota, Congressional Medal of Honor winner, a wonderfully robust character. He came and spoke at Boys State when I was governor. We kind of formed an instant friendship. Later that summer I was working in the bottom of a rock quarry in Iowa in 110 degree heat on the end of an air hammer and the end of a shovel, saying, `Please, God, anything to get me out of here,' and Joe Foss' office called and said, `He's been asked to come to New York and be on "Two For The Money" and he'd like you to be his partner.' To this day I don't know what prompted him to say, `Let's get that kid from Yankton to be my partner.' So I started getting these calls from New York. Now you can only imagine in smalltown Iowa where I was living with my aunt and uncle that summer what a buzz this created. It was live television. I was going to be flown to New York. I talked to a lot of people. They--news--the local newspaper did a story and I got on the plane in Rochester, flew through to Detroit, then into New York. I'll never forget landing in the heat of the summer. Cab driver, wonderfully friendly man, drove me into Manhattan, got set up in a hotel, and Joe Foss and I went on that show together and made $612 apiece.
LAMB: Now you also talk in your book about the first time you ever came to this city of New York.
Mr. BROKAW: It was that time and Joe said to me at the end of the show--when we finished, he said, `What are you going to do?' And I said, `Well, I'm supposed to go back tomorrow, but, God, I really don't want to. There's so much I want to see.' I'd always loved New York from a distance. I'd read a lot about it. And he said, `Well, I think you ought to stay for a couple of days and I'll help you out with that; I'll talk to your parents and we'll get some hotel arrangements.' And I called my parents and it was a--I had this very earnest discussion about the idea that I was going to stay, and my dad, long pause, said, `Well, I think you should.' He said, `You'll probably never get to see New York again.' Now I've lived here for almost three decades at this point, but I got around. I--you know, I went out to the Statue of Liberty, went to--hanging out in Times Square, went to Broadway, Greenwich Village, and I was a Dodger fan, last summer they were in the city. Jackie Robinson, my all-time hero, was gone, but I bought tickets somewhere in midtown Manhattan, said to them, `How do I get out there?' They put me on the right trains and I rode it out to Ebbets Field. So that was a really memorable experience.
LAMB: What's the difference between--I mean, in your daughters--did they grow up a lot here?
Mr. BROKAW: They grew up a lot of in New York. They grew up in Los Angeles, Washington and in New York and the difference is that as a result of that, as I say to them, they can be dropped anywhere in the world and get along. They really know what they're doing. They grew up in the city. They've traveled a lot. The doctor worked in Peshawar, Pakistan. Two of them lived in Japan for a time. Jenny worked in Africa, who's our doctor, is an Albert Schweitzer Fellow. They're very adventurous. The youngest one traveled throughout the Malaysian peninsula all one summer. And I think that's because of the confidence that they gained while they were living here.
LAMB: Speaking of big cities--then there's back to The Dumbos in your book.
Mr. BROKAW: Yes.
LAMB: Where is this picture taken?
Mr. BROKAW: This is in Yankton. These are--my in-laws are in this picture and Dr. Hubner and other members of their very close circle--Don and Lois Gatchell, Joyce and Hack Hagen. This is a group of people that I knew about in high school but I didn't really know the origin. They would meet once a month, have dinner, play bridge, have these ritualistic toasts that they would work on at great length, which had kind of dumb jokes attached to them, and for me, and for other members, I think, of the community, they were in some ways emblematic of what was virtuous about family and community and marriage and those kinds of things because they were the doctors and the businessmen in town.
LAMB: Here's the Hagens.
Mr. BROKAW: Yeah, the Hagens--we're still very close to them. They're--he is--he became an optometrist in Le Mars, Iowa, and his wife was from Yankton and she played bridge with my mother-in-law, Vivian Auld, during the war. Hack was on the USS Salt Lake City, saw a lot of action as a gunnery officer. Came back, they are almost Norman Rockwell in their kind of Midwestern qualities about church and community and faith and family and supporting education.
LAMB: And who is Meredith, Merritt and Vivian Auld?
Mr. BROKAW: Merritt and Vivian Auld were my in-laws, both gone now, tragically. Extraordinarily handsome couple. They're holding my wife, Meredith, who at the time had just turned three. It was the first time she had seen her father. He'd been gone for three years. He left right after she was born. And she didn't see him again until she was five, when he came back. And we've talked about that a lot. It really did have an impact on their relationship. He came out of a very male environment. He saw a lot of heavy-duty action as a front-line surgeon all the way through North Africa and Italy. And it took him awhile to really establish a kind of intimate bond of father and daughter, but once they did they found that they were more alike than unalike.
LAMB: This isn't the easiest thing to see, but on the screen is a--you know, a mid-January best-seller list from The Wall Street Journal. And right up here on top of non-fiction is "The Greatest Generation," your book, put out by Random House. And over here, last week, in this particular case, the number was 679. It's hard to describe what that means but it means that you set the pace for every book that...
Mr. BROKAW: Right.
LAMB: ...was being sold, whether it be business or fiction. You beat "A Man in Full," Tom Wolfe. His number was 289. It's a ratio number. How did this happen?
Mr. BROKAW: Well, I think a combination of things. First of all, it was unexpected on my part. I thought the book would do reasonably well. And this is not being immodest, but television people who get their names on books sell pretty well. I mean, Cokie's book did very well. Dan Rather's books have done well. Peter's doing well. But this has taken off to a degree that not even Random House anticipated. It's the fastest-selling book in the history of Random House. Barnes & Noble said it's the fastest-selling book for them of the decade. I think, Brian, it's a combination of things. I think that we are at a stage in our lives where we're turning the calendar, looking back on the 20th century. Everyone now on--reflections of the--World War II was the defining moment for us. These people in their 70s and 80s have never told these stories. These are fresh stories to a lot of people, their children and their grandchildren, and they're now beginning to want to make their mark. You know, they didn't speak out for a long time. They're buying the book, but what is most gratifying to me is that their children and grandchildren are buying the book by the armsload. I've--one family in Massachusetts told me the other day that the parents--they had like seven children, the parents of this generation, and the parents got seven books for Christmas, one from each of their children.
LAMB: How'd you do it?
Mr. BROKAW: Morning, noon and night kind of...
LAMB: When'd you start?
Mr. BROKAW: ...on floppies--I started in December of '97 and I had some of these stories in mind so it was pretty journalistic and pretty linear but, boy, laptop computers and floppy disks were a saving grace. And then I had an exceptional young woman by the name of Elizabeth Bowyer who had once worked in the East Wing of the White House and then helped Hillary with "It Takes a Village," her own book, and she became my ace researcher until I was forced to make her go to the University of Virginia where they were holding a place for her in the law school there. She's--a lot of law schools have been holding a place for her and everybody keeps saying, `You can't--Liz, is, you know, she's passed too many times.' And I said, `No, that's the deal.'

And then Phil Napoli who was a PhD freshly minted from Alan Brinkley's department up at Columbia helped me in, Julian Wong, who works for me as a researcher at NBC. They would get on the phone and talk to people. I knew a lot of people. We would hear from children and others and we networked like crazy and then we would do these long interviews. I would call back, go through some more material. We'd winnow them out--is this one going to work, is it going to fit in. I had the basic structure pretty well in mind going in, about ordinary people, heroes, fame, shame. Love, marriage and commitment I added at the end because I was so struck by these great romances. And so I wanted to have a chapter just on that.
LAMB: How many times did you go out to these towns and interview people yourself directly?
Mr. BROKAW: A fair amount. A lot of it was done by telephone. But I was in Indiana with Margaret Ray Ringenberg. I was in Washington with Bob Bush. I went down to Washington to see Sam Gibbons and Bob Dole, again. I knew the people in South Dakota, obviously, and could talk to them easily about what was going on. So I did, you know, move around the country wherever I could, but I did a lot on the phone as well.
LAMB: Did you do all the interviews and get all the quotes in here or did your helpers do it?
Mr. BROKAW: No, the researchers did a lot of that on the phone and then I would call back and clear things up or, you know, add to or when it didn't connect for me I would talk to them. So I talked to, I think, almost everybody in the book.
LAMB: How many people are there?
Mr. BROKAW: Well, there are about 50 principal characters. But there--toward the end--then there are lots of little anecdotes that I wanted to get in. I didn't talk to as many of them.
LAMB: How much of it did you physically write yourself?
Mr. BROKAW: Oh, I wrote it all, every word.
LAMB: Every word?
Mr. BROKAW: Word for word. Yeah, yeah.
LAMB: When do you...
Mr. BROKAW: Just wouldn't do it any other...
LAMB: When do you have time to do it?
Mr. BROKAW: Well, I just made time, Brian. I'm a pretty fast writer and it's pretty journalistic and I would get up early in the morning and start working on it and then I would take time at 9:30 for the "NBC Nightly News" conference call and then I'd say, `I'll see you about 1." And I would write from 10 to 1. I'd write on airplanes. I wrote on fishing trips. I wrote in hotel rooms late at night. I became--I went out to Montana for two weeks in August and I would get up early in the morning, go for a run with my dogs, come back, and sit down and lock in to the computer until about 1:00, 1:30, and then I would go off and fish a little bit or do something and then come back and write some more. And my family was interested to see whether I could stay on that schedule. I was determined not to lift my head up and count pages or words until at one point Kate Medina, my editor at Random House, called me and said, kind of with a small sense of awe, `There's a lot of copy here.' I said, `OK, let's start organizing it. We think we're close to a book.' She said, `We're very close.'
LAMB: Now we're recording this in the middle of January, but you've already got how many books in print?
Mr. BROKAW: A million four hundred thousand. At the beginning of--kind of the first or second week in January. They printed, originally, like 350,000 and then went quickly to 600,000 and then went quickly to 800,000 and then went quickly to 1,000,000 and then 1,200,000, now 1,400,000. And most of that's to order.
LAMB: There's also--you've done a television show that's aired. You've also got the audio version of this.
Mr. BROKAW: Right.
LAMB: You can get it in CD and you read it.
Mr. BROKAW: Right. I read it...
LAMB: It's four hours long.
Mr. BROKAW: ...I read--did do that. That's the other thing I did. I--you know, but then that's what I do for a living so I think it was a little bit easier.
LAMB: How long did it take you to do that?
Mr. BROKAW: It was two, two-and-a-half-hour sessions. So it was about five hours altogether, as I remember. I think that's about right. It might have been a little longer than that.
LAMB: And do you have any sense of which medium has the--you know, the lasting impact, your television--how long a television show did you do on this?
Mr. BROKAW: Did an hour, 44 minutes.
LAMB: Four hours on your audio and then your book. Which one has the--the book? Why?
Mr. BROKAW: That one, the book will, other--the print. Well, because it's permanent and you can pass it around, you can read from it, go back to it again. You know, you can do that with videotapes, but it's--you've got to put it back in the machine and get back to the place and that's why I think the print medium will always be with us. I think even for this new generation that they'll stay with it. Jim Lehrer said a wonderful thing to me. He had been in--oh, if not quite on the beginning, he--we have an annual dinner in it--and I told stories of the themes of this book, not about specific characters, one night at dinner, and I was so struck by the fact that Jim and others who were there--Roger Rosenblatt--said, `God, you know, that's the kind of thing that you ought to be writing.' So that helped write--when I finished it, Jim held it up and said, `Your grandchildren, your great-grandchildren won't see you on television, but they'll read this and there's something wonderful about that.'
LAMB: Now how long did it take you to title this book?
Mr. BROKAW: Well, that was the title I always wanted. I was determined to stay with it. That came out of a discussion that I had with Tim Russert on the 50th anniversary of D-Day, on "Meet the Press." He said to me, `What do you think of the generation?' Quite spontaneously, I said, `I think it's the greatest generation any society ever produced.' Came out of the Depression with all that economic deprivation, went beyond their own shores to help save the world from fascism, came back, rebuilt their enemies, built the country that we have today, married in record numbers, went to college in record numbers, kept their values, never whined, never whimpered. I also point out there that they weren't perfect. You know, they were very slow on racism. McCarthyism reared its ugly head after they got back from the war. They were very slow on gender equality but once they got it, they really did get it. And that generation, I think as much as any other generation you can think about, was a whole generation. Everybody was involved--men, women, old--the older ends of that generation, the younger ends of that generation. And they all participated. The Founding Fathers were the Founding Fathers. There were not that many women who were involved and didn't go beyond these shores except as an example of the world. The Civil War generation didn't go beyond these shores and they allowed--and women didn't have as large a role in that. This is a reflection of everybody.
LAMB: Back to the--when you got into this business. When was the first time you ever sat in front of a microphone?
Mr. BROKAW: I was 15 years old. I was working in Yankton at a little radio station called KYNT. They wanted some high school kids to come down and spin records and that was a wonderful invitation to me. I was always a little entranced by the sound of my own voice, I suppose. So I went down there with my girlfriend, Mary Lee Keating, and we had a little record show, and then I stayed on to read the news and do other things and stayed with the business.
LAMB: When did you think this was the thing to do?
Mr. BROKAW: When I think--you know, I don't think that there was that one kind of eye-popping moment in which I said, `Oh, my God, that's what I can do!' I do believe that if the nadir of my own personal life, which was in the fall of 1960 I dropped out of college, things were not going well, I couldn't get my act together, I was still utterly absorbed by national politics, paid a lot of attention. I was back in my parents' home. I stayed up all night long to watch the coverage of the Kennedy-Nixon returns. And I watched Chet Huntley and David Brinkley. And I--you know, I went to bed about 8:00 in the morning. And as I went to bed, I thought `God, what a wonderful way to go through life is to do that.' You know, that's something I care about, know about, I think I can do it. And I think it was maybe the beginning of a little turnaround for me in which I thought `This is an objective that I can do.' I also thought, given where I came from, a working class family--we were not poor, but we were not prosperous. We--you know, we earned everything that we had. But my parents gave me the opportunity to go to college--that I thought `This is a way for me to get beyond these horizons. You know, maybe I can see the world on someone else's money as a national correspondent.' In the early days of television, Brian, you may remember, it was a real meritocracy. They didn't ask for your credentials. You know, you weren't recruited out of Ivy League schools. If you could do it, you got the chance to do it. So that's what I decided to go try to do.
LAMB: Did you serve in the military?
Mr. BROKAW: I didn't. And it's curious that I didn't because I grew up in such a quasi-military environment and I always thought I'd probably--there was a time in my life when I was in junior high I thought I'd maybe have a professional military career. I wanted to go to Annapolis to the Naval Academy and I've reminded Joe Foss that he talked me out of it. He said, `You know, with your interest in politics and journalism and everything, I'm not sure you'll do really well in a highly regimented place like Annapolis. You probably ought to think about other interests in life.' And then when I graduated from college, everybody was going off to Army ROTC. I had--was recruited by the Navy, `cause I was--still wanted to be in the Navy in some fashion. Passed all the OCS exams. Thought I was going to become a naval officer in Rhode Island, at Newport, do my training. Had flat feet. And at the last station of the physical they said, `Well, we can't take you.' So I went out and volunteered for my draft examination and they said the same thing, `Well, those feet are flat. We'll give you 1-Y.' So I didn't have any military experience which I regret. I don't regret not getting shot at or, you know, making the sacrifices that young men did in Vietnam, but I think that it's one of life's experiences for males especially.
LAMB: What year did you get your university degree?
Mr. BROKAW: In '62. Actually it reads '64, `cause I didn't quite finish it. I was still working on a paper and it took me a little while. And...
LAMB: University of South Dakota finally?
Mr. BROKAW: Yeah. By then I was back at the University of South Dakota where this wonderful professor, Dr. Farber, who is the political science professor emeritus and a mentor to not just me, but Dr. Leghold (ph) whom I talked about earlier, Ken Bode, whom you know, Pat O'Brien on CBS, I mean, Larry Pressler, George Mickelson, who was the governor of South Dakota. He had a long curve and he wouldn't let me out of there until I finished--had to do a senior undergraduate paper. And when I finished it then he said, `OK, we'll give you your degree,' and it reads 1964.
LAMB: What year did you get married?
Mr. BROKAW: Got married in '62. We left the university in '62, two children. I was 22. Meredith was 21. All of our friends were getting married. Almost all of the marriages, I'm happy to say, have lasted. We put everything that we had in the backseat of a--the most bare-bones new car that her father could buy me--that Dr. Auld could buy us was a Chevy, too. It cost $1,700. No air-conditioning; no radio. He wasn't going to go that far. And we drove off to Omaha and rented a basement apartment, furnished, barely. I went to work for $100 a week at KMTV as a reporter on the street and then quickly became kind of the morning news editor and did the morning "Today" show cut-ins.
LAMB: How did you get that job in the first place?
Mr. BROKAW: Well, I was desperate. I thought I had a job--first of all, I thought I was going to go in the Navy and I was counting on that. That didn't work out. Then I thought I had a job in Miami and that fell through. A friend of mine knew about the job that there may be open in Omaha, I got in the car with Dr. Farber who agreed to drive down with me to offer moral support, the professor at the university. And we--I went in and quite blindly said to this news director `You've got to hire me.' And we went out to lunch and we talked politics and he said later that he had never had an applicant who was as enthusiastic about American politics or knew as much about American politics, including Nebraska congressional races and other things. So on that basis he decided to hire me. He said, `OK. We'll hire you. $90 a week.' And I said, `I have to have $100.' And he said, `Wait a minute. You just come begging for a job and you're asking for a raise before you get the job.' I said, `My new father-in-law is a doctor and I don't think he thinks I'm going to amount to a lot and if I don't have $100 a start, it's going to be a bad beginning of this marriage.' So he said, `I'll give you $100 but I'll tell you something, you're not going to get a raise for a long time.' Well, when--and when I got one of those big NBC contracts that have gotten fairly well-publicized--his name was Mark Gautier. He was a wonderful kind of green eye-shade news editor. He was--lamentably, we lost in the last year. He wrote to me and said, `Hey, Brokes, maybe NBC ought to hire me as a negotiator. I did a lot better on your salary than they seem to have.' Which is a pretty good joke between us.
LAMB: Did you ever get trained in being a television newsperson?
Mr. BROKAW: No, no.
LAMB: Never voice training?
Mr. BROKAW: No, no. No, I mean, I've worked--you know, I have this problem with my L's, so I work with that from time to time, but no, I--and I don't think that there's a school that you can go to. I've always believed that you have to be primarily yourself, as you have been so successfully.
LAMB: Let me ask you about--I don't know why I want to ask you about this, but why is it that television and radio--I remember when I started out in radio. You know, you'd almost cup your ear and you would find yourself--I mean, in television and radio, you almost become something other than what you are.
Mr. BROKAW: Artificial.
LAMB: Why has the business grown up that way where there's a lot of yelling and, `We'll be right back after this!' You know, what's that come from? Because we don't talk to each other...
Mr. BROKAW: I think it--no, I think it--you know, if you go back and look at--listen to the old announcers that you and I grew up with and the old newscasters, Edward R. Murrow was highly stylized. I mean, he's a reverential figure for all of us, but he couldn't get away with that now. You know, that cigarette smoke and the kind of the use of the language and how he did it and, `the fault lies not in the stars but with us,' and that kind of thing, and that's how we--you know, Gabriel Heatter, Lowell Thomas, all the people that you heard.

But, having said all that, the best single newscaster I ever heard was a man by the name of Whitey Larson on WNAX in Sioux City, Iowa, who would come on and do the 10:00 news--I later learned in his municipal band uniform. It was on radio. And he would say, `Well, it's gonna snow tomorrow, but it won't be the shoveling kind, so if you're gonna hang out the wash, you'll be OK, ladies, until about noon.' That's how he would start the newscast. I was like 12 years old listening to the 10:00 news on the radio. And then he would talk his way through the news. And I've always thought he was the perfect radio newscaster because it was as if he came to your home to tell you about what was going on.
LAMB: We go--let me ask you again, though, why is it like in commercials, especially radio commercials, they're yelling at--what happened?
Mr. BROKAW: I don't know. There's this--it's probably the rock 'n' roll attitude about radio that it has to be louder. The--but one of the things that has happened with me, by the way, with this book, now that you bring it up, is that I have been able to go around the country and be interviewed on various NPR outlets, and it's been one of the great joys of having written a book. Diane Rehm's in Washington, and the University of Washington, a young man the other--a couple of weeks ago, and other people. And then I've done AP radio and I've done--AARP has got a radio outlet as well. That's the opposite. These are old-fashioned radio interviewers, and it gets to be very intimate and it's about what radio, I think, is all about.
LAMB: I have something I picked up today and I want to share it with you. We'll get a close-up here, if we can. It's kind of hard to see it. This is out of the New York Post, and it's the first time I've ever seen anybody do this. You know, usually on these ratings, they only--they do the rating numbers and you never understand what it is. This is a breakdown of total actual viewers right here, and it shows here ABC had 14.3 total viewers last week. This is in the middle of January again. NBC had 14 million, CBS 13 million, Fox 11 million. And it goes on down here to some of the programs, the top 30...
Mr. BROKAW: Right.
LAMB: ...and then it goes right here to the network news. You're on top, but you have 12.94 million. ABC has 12.5 million and "CBS Evening News" has 12.3 million. You're almost neck and neck. How does that happen?
Mr. BROKAW: Yeah. Well, I think you got three thoroughly professional people working hard at these broadcasts every night, and I'm not surprised. I think that they're highly competitive news organizations with their own--each with a strong lineup of affiliates out across the country. That's why paying as much attention as we do to the ratings probably is overstated, but nonetheless you like to finish number one. You know, I'm--so we're ahead by 400,000 viewers, I'll take it.
LAMB: Well, what have you found from your studies that matters in a newscast, that gets more viewers than the others? I mean, how much do you matter in that?
Mr. BROKAW: Oh, I think I'm a factor. I think people watch people, but I think the three of us have been at this for so long now, we've all roughly had the same tenure, you know, as--in my case, it's about 16 years altogether. Dan's been there a little longer, Peter just a--like 15 years. So I think they know who we are at this point. I think it's a combination of things, Brian. It's often the lineup of affiliates and how strong they are, how well your network is doing, what precedes you, what comes right after you is a part of it.

In that particular case, you know, that reflected a big news week. There was a lot of stuff going on. It was cold. People stayed inside. And also we had articles of impeachment being delivered to the US Senate and they were trying to work out the rules. And then folks paid attention. I think that they still count on these evening news broadcasts to do the important stories. When war broke out again in Iraq, our viewership went up. They come to us. When they're--when the news is kind of flat, it's much more diffused. There are a lot of choices out there now. One of my friends was telling me the other night Comedy Central, you know, has become very hip for a lot of young people to look at because there's not much in the news that interests them.
LAMB: Look at this week. This is the week of December 28th through January the 3rd, and it's cable...
Mr. BROKAW: Right.
LAMB: ...basic cable. And I think if you count it up there, there are 14 different programs they mention. I think six of the top 10 are wrestling.
Mr. BROKAW: They're all wrestling, yep.
LAMB: You can see World Wrestling Federation is number two with six million viewers. World Championship Wrestling on TNT, five million viewers. This is where we're getting when people actually have a choice. What do you think this means?
Mr. BROKAW: Oh, I'm not surprised. I mean, carnivals have always done well, you know, in a community. And as I often say to people when they say, `Well, why do you deal with the bad news?' I say, `Well, we don't see it as bad news. We see it as change.' You take a long cross-country trip, there's a nine-car pileup at an intersection in an interstate, you're gonna stop and take a look at that. You're gonna say, `Well, that's bad news. I don't want to be in--absorbed by it.' But that's--that's part of it.

And I also think right now in America, there--people are so switched off of politics, times are so good, we have the highest level of prosperity in our history, probably in the history of Western civilization for as many people, that they can be kind of disengaged from real things and say, `I'm amused by that,' you know, and the various wrestling outlets know how to exploit that.
LAMB: This is not a question about network news so much or networks as--Robert Samuelson had a column this morning in The Washington Post. And we show it on the screen. It says Network Fadeout. And I ask you this more of a--from a standpoint of a sociology department than a network. It says, `The major TV networks as we know them are dead. You need not worry that ABC, CBS and NBC will vanish, but their central role in American life is finished. Since TV's early years, they have commanded the heights of news, entertainment and sports. They decimated the ranks of newspapers, decided what we saw and talked about, and according to their fiercest critics, turned the minds of millions of Americans into mush.' Mr. Samuelson says then, `Never again.' What do you think? You're in the middle of MSNBC and you have the Internet and NBC's got it all right at the moment. What's gonna--what's it all gonna do to the country?
Mr. BROKAW: Well, one of the reasons that we are in the middle of it all is that we do see this diffusion of the spectrum, you know. What Mr. Samuelson does not say is that we used to have a duopoly. It used to be just CBS and NBC. ABC was not even a player in the early stages, and so we could dictate, and television in those days was a phenomenon. People would sit and watch whatever came along. They became more discriminating, more choice was available to them through cable and other kinds of outlets, and my own guess is that we're in a passage now, the end of which we cannot see; that people are making determinations about what is important to them.

Are networks--well, first of all, I don't find them as sinister as he does. I think if you look back on the place of networks with great entertainment--I mean, there's been a lot of bad stuff as well, but there's been a lot of wonderful stuff. If you look just recently at "Seinfeld" as a comedy of reflecting the '90s and then going back to "The Jackie Gleason Show" and Sid Caesar and all the wonderful shows that were there in the '70s and '80s.

And then on big events, as you know from your own experience, the assassination of John Kennedy made television news what it is today. People took the medium seriously. There we were. We were the glue that held the country together that weekend. That's happened on a lot of other occasions: Persian Gulf War, Vietnam--it was a hugely important instrument, I think, for the country. There was no more important policy tool during the civil rights movement than network television news coverage every night of that big story from a distance, because in the South, they could no longer control what was happening in terms of what people were seeing. The whole country then saw what was going on.

So I think that we'll adapt, is what I believe, and I think that people will take the best of what they need from various outlets. But we'll never have--he's quite right. The networks will never be as dominant again as they once were. Now having said that, when there was a big news week just recently, the three evening newses commanded half of the television sets in use at the time that we were on the air. That's a pretty impressive number, Brian.
LAMB: Back to this book, Tom Brokaw and "The Greatest Generation." Had they had television like we know it today, or even like we knew it back in the '60s--mid-'60s to '70s where you dominated everything, what do you think would have happened in World War II? I mean...
Mr. BROKAW: I don't think Hitler would have gotten as far as he did. I think that's part of it, and that's what we--we tend to have that kind of hypothetical on the shores of Omaha Beach, for example. Would they have turned? Would the country have been outraged? And I always say go back to the 1930s as Hitler was marching across Poland and marching across France. Would this country have been as soporific as it was about what was going on over there, about the buildup that was going on in Japan? I think it would have aroused real passions here and probably--I like to think he wouldn't have gotten that far.
LAMB: Want to ask you--you mentioned Omaha Beach. I want to ask you about two cemeteries. One you write about in the book. You went with your father's brother to a small cemetery in Bristol, South Dakota.
Mr. BROKAW: Right.
LAMB: What was that all about?
Mr. BROKAW: I went on Memorial Day, oh, eight or nine years ago now to see my father's surviving brother. This is the family homestead founded by my great-grandfather, this little town, Bristol, which was an intersection of two lines of the Milwaukee road--Railroad, north and south, east and west. They built a little railroad hotel there and the family lived there, 11 brothers and sisters. Pretty raucous group, but wonderfully cohesive in terms of family. And John was the surviving brother and he'd been in the Navy during the war and he said to me, `We have to go put the flags out on the graves.' He said, `I've given up that assignment to this young farmer south of town who is a Korean War veteran and he's supposed to do it. I don't know whether he knows where all the graves are.'

So I walked down with him to the cemetery and I stood on this knoll and looked at these two men, each clutching a fistful of small flags, going from cemetery to cemetery putting them on, and the great gray, you know, late spring South Dakota sky was stretched out behind them, and it was an epiphanous moment for me. I thought of all the sacrifices that had been made just in that community in wars, and then the people who'd stayed behind and kept the community going, kept the country going together. And these men paying homage to them as men will and women will forevermore in that community. And that also led me to write this book.
LAMB: And you also write about Omaha Beach and standing up on that hillside looking down with that cemetery there, some 14,000 people buried in that cemetery.
Mr. BROKAW: Right.
LAMB: How have we done, from your experience--and you've done a lot of work on this--maintaining these cemeteries? And what impact do they have on people that go there and see them?
Mr. BROKAW: The cemeteries are magnificent. I mean, they really are wonderfully maintained. And it's not just by the Americans who maintain them, but in Holland, for example, or in the Philippines or in France, the local people are so grateful that they still work on those cemeteries and make sure that they're impeccably kept up. There's a--Robert Gagne's father is buried in Holland. He talked about the Dutch caretakers out at the American cemetery there and how there wasn't a scrap to be seen anywhere.

And when you go there, it is a leveling experience. It's--you know, emotionally it's--it really does bring you to your knees. Bill Mauldin tells this wonderful story about the dedication of Colleville-sur-Mer, which is the cemetery in Omaha Beach, and I think it was General Prescott--I'm not sure--who turned to the dignitaries who were looking out at the cemetery and he had his back to the cemetery because that's where the speaker's platform was, and he said to the dignitaries, `I mean no disrespect,' he said, `but I want to address my men.' And he turned around and made his speech to those thousands of white crosses and saying, `I'm sorry I couldn't keep you alive.' And Mauldin, as I saw him tell this story on a PBS show, broke up, and with good reason.
LAMB: If somebody out there watching this right now is a Vietnam veteran, why--you call this the greatest generation. Why wouldn't it be just as great of a generation that went to Vietnam when this country wasn't very hospitable about it?
Mr. BROKAW: Hospitable, right.
LAMB: You go over to Vietnam, your head's in the mud over there, you get your hands blown off or whatever. You're back here now and you went back to work and you didn't--you don't--I mean, they don't talk about it either, a lot of them. Why aren't--why isn't that...
Mr. BROKAW: No, I think that--I think that they deserve more attention than they're getting, and I think that that, too, is worthy of a book called "Coming Home" or whatever you want to describe it as. And I think that the--I think that there's something that can be done, frankly, Brian, between those who didn't go and those who did go and how they're joined in communities all over America now and don't know that. Or they're not talking about it together, about what motivated you.

I know a--I have a lot of neighbors in Montana and up in New England who are Vietnam veterans and they are the stuff of the community. You know, they're ranchers and they run building supply companies and they're the first selectmen and so on, and one of the lessons of Vietnam and those men who went and came back is that a lot of them want to get involved in their communities because they didn't want there to be a time in their lives again when they didn't have a say in what happened to them and who made decisions about their lives.
LAMB: One story that I know I--struck home with me was the gentleman by the name of Broderick, who is blind. Tell that.
Mr. BROKAW: Well, it just strikes everybody. Tom Broderick was the only son of a Chicago Irish-American family. His father had a small trucking business. He was in pre-med when the war broke out. He joined the Merchant Marine, got accepted to the academy. The Merchant Marine Academy was on a long, boring cruise across the Atlantic, as he described it, and decided that he wanted something more exciting so he went into the airborne, and everybody tried to talk him out of it--his parents, his draft board, the Merchant Marines. Said, `No, that's what I'm gonna do.' Well, in the Battle of Arnhem, he was shot through the head. He was blinded. They didn't tell him that he was gonna be permanently blinded, and so he came back in quite a rage. That's a wonderful picture of him with his sisters. But he...
LAMB: And he's blind here.
Mr. BROKAW: He's blind there. Yeah, you would never know it. But when he came back, and when his children came--got to an age where they understood that their father was blind, he would tell them this story. He would say, `Your mother--your grandmother took me to Lourdes hoping that there could be a miracle.' And he said, `Just before they put the holy water on my eyes, I said, "Lord, I know that we don't always get what we want, but what we deserve, and what I really need is a good woman,"' and he met Eileen, his wife, not too long after that, and they raised seven children. He built a very successful business.

And his children got in touch with me to talk about him. And one of his sons said when Vietnam veterans were sent over to the house by the VA, he said, `They would get out of the car looking suicidal, but Dad would sit on the porch and talk about White Sox baseball and he would--Mom would get a case of beer and he'd walk them through the house and talk to them about what they could do with business.' He said, `By the end of the evening,' this son would say, `I'd hear laughter and reason for life to go on again.'
LAMB: Then there's Dr. Charles Van Gorder.
Mr. BROKAW: Yeah, I feel very close to Dr. Van Gorder because of my own father-in-law, who had similar experiences, and never ever talked about them. Dr. Van Gorder--I mean, this is an extraordinary story--he jumped on D-Day and they did something unusual. They decided not to set up well behind the front lines, that they were gonna jump into the middle of the action and set up a MASH unit so that he could operate on young men, and he was operating on them. By 9:00 in the morning, they had 300 or 400 casualties. He was captured later, a prisoner of war, almost died a couple of times during that experience. His closest friend, John Rodda, they kind of kept each other alive.

They made their way back through Poland, came back. They were gonna go to fellowships here in New York, have big distinguished practices. And he went to visit his family down in Andrews, North Carolina, and saw that they needed a physician, got his friend, they went down there, set up this very small clinic and they were the doctors there forevermore, delivered all the babies, set all the bones, built a hospital. I mean, that's really what has made this country what it is today, what these people did when they came back.
LAMB: The ROMEO Club.
Mr. BROKAW: The ROMEO Club. Retired Old Men Eating Out, and, Brian, you and I, we'll go up there and have lunch with them one of these days, because it's about as much fun as you can possibly have. These are some of the--some of the guys.
LAMB: Where are they?
Mr. BROKAW: They're in a bar, and I--that's in the Phil...
LAMB: It's Panama.
Mr. BROKAW: Panama. That's in Panama. They're on their way to the South Pacific. I couldn't remember. They were--some of them were in the Philippines in another picture. They grew up in an Irish-American working-class neighborhood just off Harbor Yard, two- and three-story homes with two and three families living in every home, six and seven kids; all went to the parochial schools, played pickup baseball and basketball and football and swam in the Charles River. War came, big banner, you know, `Kerry Corner's contributions to the war effort.' Came back, became cops, schoolteachers, headmasters and so on. One of them, Lefty Caulfield, was kind of the organizer of the group, went to Harvard on a baseball scholarship and was captain of the team and says to this day with great pride, `And we beat Yale when George Bush was playing first base.'
LAMB: Johnnie Holmes.
Mr. BROKAW: Johnnie Holmes was raised in northwestern Chicago--in fact, in Evanston. Didn't know much racial discrimination growing up in that community, which is the home of Northwestern University, and then went into the Army. As he said, `I was--told my mother I wasn't gonna let the Army break me. I was gonna let it make me.' And he became a member of the 761st tank battalion, but saw really God-awful racial discrimination, both at home and abroad, but came back and led a distinguished life in Chicago working for the city, and now he works for his Catholic church as a volunteer, and one of the things that he says is that, `I made a deal with God. If he would let me come back, I would then do his work.' And he said, `For everybody I killed in Europe, I think I've helped 10 more here at home.'
LAMB: Did you ever find yourself personally being overwhelmed with the stories?
Mr. BROKAW: Yeah, a lot.
LAMB: Break down?
Mr. BROKAW: Pardon me?
LAMB: Did you break down or cry? I mean, it...
Mr. BROKAW: Oh, sure. No, I had--yeah, I--my--a couple of times, I could barely--there's an Art Buchwald story in there that you--that you may have read, and my children--he's very close in our family. He's like an uncle, and Buchwald--the world's most unlikely Marine--at Parris Island was trained by a DI by the name of Pete Bonardi, and Pete Bonardi was sure that Art would--he called him Brooklyn--Pete Bonardi called Artie Brooklyn. He was sure that he was gonna die because he couldn't do anything right, and he was on demerit all the time. But Art got back after hi--undistinguished military record and went to USC and became famous as a columnist. Life magazine said, `Want you to go back to Life--to Parris Island.' He found Pete Bonardi to take him back with him. They had a wonderful week. Art still couldn't do anything on the obstacle course or, you know, with weapons or anything else, but it was a big laugh.

A few years later, someone called and said, `Art, your friend, Pete Bonardi's dying of cancer.' Art wrote him a--got out one of the photographs from the Life magazine series and said, `To Pete Bonardi, you made a man out of me; I'll never forget you,' and sent it off to Pete Bonardi, whose wife then told Art that he hung it above his bed so everybody could see, and when he died, he asked to have that picture buried with him.

Now as I would try to--describe that over the phone to my daughters, I couldn't get through it because--and still to this day, it says to me about that generation and what they did for each other. Here is Art, you know, who became a very famous, celebrated newspaper columnist, moving in the--you know, the highest circles of Washington and Paris, Pete Bonardi came back to be a security agent at the World's Fair, but at the end of their lives, they were like this because of those formative experiences that they had.
LAMB: When do you think--or, maybe you know--you worked the hardest in your life? What years?
Mr. BROKAW: I think 1989 might have been the hardest year. That's when everything collapsed around the world. You know, the Soviet Union came down, Czechoslovakia was freed, and Poland was freed and Mandela was released from prison and Tiananmen Square happened, and I was on an airplane almost every night to some distant place. It was very exciting, but it was a lot of hard work, but it was something I never thought I would see in my lifetime. It's--it was immensely rewarding as well, because I think that at NBC particularly, but at all the networks, that we did a distinguished job of covering that momentous time.

Now during the Watergate years, I worked very, very hard, too, in part because I was often on duty as John Chancellor's substitute if he were away, and then I would fill in on the "Today" show and then go back and report all week long and all weekend long during Watergate.
LAMB: Did you ever think about politics yourself?
Mr. BROKAW: Oh, early on, I did, when I was a young man, but not since I've been in this business, you know, and people have talked to me about it, but I think it's an honorable arena. I still love it. I think it defines who we are at any given time. We have no one to blame but ourselves. I still get excited about even city council races, you know, in remote villages. But, no, it's not for me.
LAMB: What would you change--I mean, you interview people all the time. What would you change about people you interview if you could, politicians in particular? What do they do that bugs you?
Mr. BROKAW: Oh, what they do that bugs me is that even though we know each other and they know that they're gonna--they're gonna spin--this whole thing--spin thing is totally out of--you never get an--you never get real candor anymore. You do from a few. John McCain and Bob Kerry, two veterans, by the way. You know, once in a while, they just say, `Well, I don't know what I'm gonna do about that,' you know, or I--`Got me.' Boy, that's refreshing, you know, from time to time if somebody would say--you know, I thought you were gonna say what would I do about politics. I would change--I'd change campaign finance. I think it's ruined it.
LAMB: But how do you get past--go back to the interviewing. How do you get past the spin?
Mr. BROKAW: You just have to keep working at it. This will have been on by the time I do it, but I got to go from here to interview Trent Lott about the impeachment trial, you know, and I'm--my mind is reeling about how I'm gonna come at him at a different angle to get him to say something that is truly spontaneous and insightful, you know, that will reveal his soul a little bit. There's gotta be a lot of turmoil in Trent Lott about how this thing is gonna go, but he's very buttoned up and he'll have a set piece that he'll lay out there, you know, for public consumption, and how do you get beyond that is hard.

But then you know what, Brian? I'm doing the same thing here, in a manner of speaking. You know, I'm not gonna--you know, I've got my guard up a little bit, even as kindly and friendly as you are about all this and it's positive. Yeah, I think everybody does.
LAMB: Why?
Mr. BROKAW: Oh, because it's a minefield out there. You know, the--it can be taken out of context--not by you, but somebody can lift it out and say `Brokaw said on Brian Lamb's "Booknotes"'--and then, bang, you read about it on page six in some publication somewhere. I mean, I'm very cautious. I live in New York. I'm around, you know, taxicabs and restaurants and theater and whatever, and it doesn't always go exactly the way you'd like it to. You know, sometimes taxi drivers are rude or they don't--people do things, and you'd like to snap back, but you just don't dare if you're a public figure.
LAMB: What would you tell people that you have to deal with out there in the world who obviously recognize you wherever you go about how to treat you as--I mean, do people do things that bug you?
Mr. BROKAW: No, they're very nice actually. I--and I'm pretty gregarious and I--one of the things I think that happens is--as a result of the nature of the work that I do--the news--is that the people have a little different appreciation of that than if I were a talk show artist or a--you know, a rock 'n' roll star. That's for my next life, by the way. Or a film star. I've had--I have friends who are big film stars. It's--I don't know how they do it, frankly. Michael Jordan--he can retire from basketball, but he still has to go through life.

So when I'm pleasant to people. I mean, this sounds self-serving, but I--you know, I'm generally interested in what they have to say and I try to, you know, nod and be pleasant and accessible to them. And you develop little--people will say, `Gee, I watch you every night,' and I'll say, `Well, make you rich or famous, but I really appreciate it.' You know, because I do. It's a real connection. If--you know, what I do, what you do, we both depend on those people on the other side of the screen, and we can never forget that. That's why we're here. We're not here for ourselves, we're here for them. And I try to keep that in mind.

And I travel a lot. I'm out across America, you know. I'm in the fabric of this country in many ways, and it's always wonderful for me to be able to hear what's going on somewhere; you know, how people got here, what they're doing, what their business is, what their interests are.
LAMB: What have you missed that you haven't been able to do yet?
Mr. BROKAW: Well, that's one big piece of it. I--you know what I haven't been able to do? I haven't been able to take like six months and just disappear. I'd love to do that. Because the technology now is such that they can find me anywhere in the world and almost always do. As you may know, I do--or love to do adventurous travel. And a couple of years ago, Meredith and I were in Mongolia. But just before I left, NBC put in my hands a mobile phone not much larger than that book, and on a riverbank in northwestern Mongolia, I thought, `Well, maybe I'll try it out,' and I popped it open. And it shoots a satellite on its own. Put in a couple of keys and I was talking to my office with about a half a second delay. Now that's good news and terrible news for me.
LAMB: By the way, what's Meredith like?
Mr. BROKAW: What is she like?
LAMB: Mm-hmm.
Mr. BROKAW: Well, she's exceptionally physically attractive, for one thing, which is what people always notice about her right off the bat, an extraordinarily handsome woman. And Barbara Walters once said to me, `When did you first realize just how beautiful she is?' And I said, `Well, I don't--I never thought it in those terms. I always thought that she was extraordinarily handsome woman.' And I think what everybody is struck by is her wonderful openness, but at the same time, strong sense of independence. You know, that she--she doesn't move through life in my orbit. She moves her life in her orbit and our orbits happen to work well together.
LAMB: We don't have much time, but I want you to name each of your three daughters and just say a little bit about each one of them.
Mr. BROKAW: Jennifer Brokaw is a physician and she's an emergency room specialist, and that's a perfect match for her personality. She takes charge. And if you've gotten yourself in trouble, she'll fix you up but tell you where you went wrong.
LAMB: Like you or your wife?
Mr. BROKAW: A combination of the two. Really confrontational like me, but looks like her mother and has same mothering instincts. Andrea Brokaw, the middle one, is in the record business, has an--I'm told by everybody in it--a great ear for talent and also a strong business head and is more like me in terms of her interest in kind of the popular culture. Sarah, the youngest one, is--this is a father speaking, of course--but she's a darling girl with a long run of boyfriends over the years, and is totally fearless about life; will go up and meet almost anyone anywhere in the world and is great fun to be around, and she's in New York and it's great fun to have her back here.
LAMB: The book looks like this. It's by Tom Brokaw and it's called "The Greatest Generation." We thank you very much for joining us.
Mr. BROKAW: Brian, it's a real pleasure always to be with you.


Copyright National Cable Satellite Corporation 2004. Personal, noncommercial use of this transcript is permitted. No commercial, political or other use may be made of this transcript without the express permission of National Cable Satellite Corporation.