TOM BROKAW AND THE WORLD
NEW YORK CITY
The Society of Industrial and Office Realtors (SIOR) held its fall World Conference at the Sheraton Times Square Hotel in New York City last week. On Friday, October 21, 2016, former NBC news anchor, Tom Brokaw gave his view of world events. He is the author of the “The Greatest Generation” about the WWII generation. He spoke on his views of the world and the US Presidential race. He has covered Presidential elections since 1964. He grew up in S. Dakota, worked for a tv station in Atlanta and then made it to NBC in NYC. I attended his talk and here are my take-aways and notes from his one hour discussion.
The setting was a large stage with leather coaches that he was sitting in. There was one moderator next to him that asked a series of questions. He started by discussing the rare cancer that he had contracted a couple of years ago that he is still fighting. The cancer has an ability to weaken bone structure so he uses a walker at times but he has gained more strength. He told a story that one day he was leaving his NYC apartment to take a walk to the corner store just to get out of his apartment and get some exercise. It was winter time and the ground had snow and ice and he was using his walker. As he was sledging through the snow and there was a poster of Tom Brady (he says, you know the QB on the Patriots) who was advertising Ugs. He sees these two women oogling over him and talking about how cute and handsome he is. Tom Brokaw is walking past these women, still fighting cancer, his was a celebrity but in a walker and trying to build strength. He was cold and struggling. He said it was a great moment for him as he looked up at the Brady poster and then dropped the F bomb on Brady (that’s Brokaw’s description). He said he felt better after that moment.
He was asked about US Congress and the Presidential Elections. He stated that in his entire career he has never seen a race such as this one. Both candidates are unpopular by the country. Both are not trusted and approval ratings are at their lowest. No matter who wins, half the country will be radically unhappy. And he felt that counting on Congress to be a leader will be very difficult. Today Congress is very fractured. They don’t talk. In the past, even behind closed doors, Congressmen would reach out to the other side to make agreements. Today, if one party huddles with another party’s member to make a deal, they will be reprimanded by their caucus leaders. Reaching over the aisle or compromising is not allowed. It’s a win-lose scenario. Nothing is getting done in DC.
Tom stated that social media is a driver with these conflicts and it can cause mythical statements. In other words, people lie and use the social media to spread these lies. People believe these lies and it fosters more hatred or distrust in the world. Social media is a problem because a mythical statement can be made and the person who makes the mythical statement may have millions of people following them on tweeter or Instagram, etc. It’s a big issue.
During Watergate, Congress still talked to each other despite the fact that the President was under indictment and being impeached. Congress was still making deals. Today with Social Media, whatever you write or say (if it’s captured on video), it will be on-line forever. You can’t take it back and it has a broad base impact. Today it seems that everyone in the U.S. is unhappy and not grounded. Unfortunately those who are unhappy are feeding others in the U.S. on social media and now everyone is unhappy and mad. We need some real change. There is a problem with reality versus distortion. People are mad with Trump and the Millennials can’t stand Hillary. She is a grand-mother who shouts at Millennial grandchildren and someone they cannot trust. Trump has his problems too insulting everyone.
Interestingly the age group between 21-31 years old, the Millennials, will switch jobs 6 times in their career. They don’t believe in the same loyalty as the older generation did to companies. It is because companies have not been loyal to its workers over the last 30 years. It’s a very different world. Millennials think and work very different than his generation. This thinking has impacting the elections and the selection for President. They don’t have the same loyalty to parties or candidates. They may not even vote. They don’t see elections the same way as older generations. At NBC, he worked very hard to get that corner office. His office today is quite large and it is a corner office and he likes it. But his daughter who works in NYC, she doesn’t believe in corner office and she is traveling for work quite a bit. She works on temporary desks, or “touch space” desk work. Millennials don’t have the same needs as the older generations.
Tom talked about his career and gave a humorous story. He grew up in S. Dakota in a poor family. His parents were hard workers, blue collar and it was very tough to make a living. His town of Bristol was very small and everyone pretty much knew each other. He worked television in Iowa and Nebraska and left for a local station in Atlanta. He joined NBC in California and then was elevated to a White House Correspondent in 1973 and he covered Watergate. In 1976 he became host of the Today Show. When he got the position, he was real proud of himself. His mother loved the Today Show and she was excited that he was going to be on national TV every morning on her favorite show. He moved to NYC and he is now 36 years old. He had a nice salary, is very well known and a celebrity. One day, he was shopping in Bloomingdales and after awhile he notices a man is shadowing him. Being a celebrity, it wasn’t unusual but this man would not go away. As Tom was walking around so was this man following him as if to see if this was in fact Tom Brokaw. Tom said that he decided to stop and then turned around, looked at the man and nodded at him as to say, “yes I’m Tom Brokaw.” But instead of this man leaving him, the stranger instead approached him and asked if he was Tom Brokaw from Bristol, S. Dakota. Tom said “yes I am” The man then said that he also was from Bristol, S. Dakota and thought he had in fact recognized Tom. The man may have worked with
Tom in Bristol was his was kid but the man said that he hadn’t seen him in years. Tom said to the man that “it was nice to meet him.” Then the man asked Tom “So whatever happened to you anyway since you left Bristol?” Tom was said it was quite a humbling moment. Don’t take yourself too serious.
Tom went on to talk about the Middle East. He has been visiting the Middle East for decades covering stories and digging into the issues. He felt that it is very complicated and most Americans do not understand the situation that has goes back over 2000 years ago. He said that the Middle East is in fact historically a tribal territory. There never were border lines. It was not an area of countries or legal national lines. Tribes roamed the entire area and created their own territories. If a tribe was confronted by another tribe and lost, then they moved on and their territory was owned by the winning tribe. He said that after WW I, the U.S. created these national border lines. However tribes do not recognize them. These lines never existed for thousands of years so why should someone tell them where they can go or conquer? For thousands of years, religious groups traded territories with battles and these territories were not based on legal lines. They just aren’t going to accept someone else’s decision of border lines.
On the Syria refugee situation, Tom stated that we need a coalition that will save the refugees in Syria. The USA can’t do it alone. The U.S. needs help from other countries. Tom felt that the US has a responsibility to help the refugees. We can’t give up on American values. We have always been a country that helps others but in this case, we also need help in order to help others.