Tom Brokaw: America needs ‘big idea’ to unite populace

HeraldTimesOnline.com
Tom Brokaw: America needs ‘big idea’ to unite populace
O’Bannon Institute features former NBC News anchor

By Rachel Bunn 331-4357 | rbunn@heraldt.com
April 12, 2013

All you need is a big idea.

That, according to veteran journalist Tom Brokaw, is what’s missing from America right now: the big idea.

“We have a lot of small ideas that divide us,” Brokaw said. “People have very narrow interest groups, from the left all the way across to the right, with the power of a keystroke, the extraordinary way technology has reached, the organized kind of jihads we wage against anyone that doesn’t exactly agree with us.”

Brokaw, NBC News journalist and author, spoke to about 460 people as part of the O’Bannon Institute for Community Service’s annual fundraising dinner Thursday at the downtown convention center. The theme for this year’s Ivy Tech Community College event, which continues today, is “Building the Next Great Generation.”

The next generation, in Brokaw’s opinion, needs something big to unite it and push it past all the small divisions.

Big ideas of the past, from the GI Bill, which sent millions of veterans to college following World War II, to President Ronald Reagan’s talks with former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, which led to the fall of the Berlin Wall, worked to move America forward and fundamentally change the way the population thinks.

Redefining public service might be the next big idea, Brokaw said, putting a different face on America for the rest of the world, sending young people into other countries to work and learn in public service for several years.

“They would come back with language, they would come back with knowledge of the political system of another county,” he said. “Our country would be lifted by a big idea.”

Tragedies, Brokaw said, have a way of bringing the country together. America, however, has missed these opportunities to unite, particularly after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Now, Brokaw hopes that there’s something else, whether it’s his public service idea or some other idea, that people can get behind.

“I’m just the troublemaker,” he said. “The catalyst trying to make something happen.”

Working together and uniting is an idea that has permeated America’s past, despite individual political leanings.

Brokaw shared the story of three young men who were injured during World War II, who were from all different parts of the county and shared a hospital room. They shared dreams and goals and became lifelong friends.

The next time Daniel Inouye, Bob Dole and Philip Hart shared a room, they were members of the U.S. Senate, Brokaw said.

The most important image of the past six months, he said, is one of Dole, a Republican, saluting the coffin of Inouye, a Democrat.

“It’s that kind of imagery that we need to see more of, and we need to think about again,” Brokaw said.

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Tom Brokaw, author and former NBC News anchor, talks with attendees at the annual dinner for Ivy Tech’s O’Bannon Institute for Community Service. David Snodgress | Herald-Times

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Tom Brokaw, author and former NBC News anchor, greets Judy O’Bannon and Ivy Tech Community College Bloomington Chancellor John Whikehart Thursday prior to the annual dinner for Ivy Tech’s O’Bannon Institute for Community Service. Judy O’Bannon is the widow of former Indiana Gov. Frank O’Bannon, for whom the institute is named. David Snodgress | Herald-Times

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Tom Brokaw, author and former NBC News anchor, stands with Judy O’Bannon Thursday prior to the annual dinner for Ivy Tech’s O’Bannon Institute for Community Service. Judy O’Bannon is the widow of former Indiana Gov. Frank O’Bannon, for whom the institute is named. David Snodgress | Herald-Times

Copyright: HeraldTimesOnline.com 2013

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