Carlson lecture features Brokaw

Megan Boldt

To commemorate Curtis L. Carlson Day, NBC news anchor Tom Brokaw highlighted the accomplishments of the World War II generation Monday morning at Northrop Auditorium.
The Board of Regents proclaimed Sept. 27 “Curtis L. Carlson Day” to honor the former president of Plymouth-based Carlson Companies, a devoted University benefactor.
Carlson donated $1 million in 1980 for the lecture series that has brought 41 distinguished leaders to the University, including Rigoberta Menchu, Geraldine Ferraro and Elie Wiesel.
During Monday’s lecture, Brokaw reflected on his recently published book, “The Greatest Generation,” a collection of stories about the World War II era. More than 3,500 people attended his speech.
“I appear before you today as a child of the greatest generation,” Brokaw said.
Outside Northrop Auditorium, more than 20 protesters condemned Brokaw and his affiliation with NBC, which is owned by General Electric. Signs reading, “Enter here for media lies,” greeted lecture attendees as they filed into the auditorium.
Russ Smarjesse, a member of the Progressive Student Organization, said protesters wanted to challenge the corporate media and Brokaw’s alliance with the U.S. Department of Defense.
“People need to realize the correlation with the amount of money brought into an organization and how much advertisers have a say in what is published,” Smarjesse said.
Brokaw said the charges were “egregiously” wrong and told the audience that a fire wall exists between the broadcast journalists and NBC owners.
He referred to a press release sent by the student group to local NBC affiliate KARE-11.
“At the bottom, they described Hubert Humphrey as a well-known Nazi sympathizer,” Brokaw said. “I thought that might have said something about the credibility of the group.”
He also noted that, according to NBC’s Pentagon correspondent, journalists have no knowledge that GE weapons were even used in the war against Iraq.
Brokaw’s reaction to the protesters lasted a few minutes, compared to an hour for his lecture on the World War II generation.
He described the economic despair his parents went through during the Great Depression. That generation later fought in a war in which the freedom of the world hung in the balance, Brokaw said.
“All that we have — politically, economically and culturally — that world we owe to them,” Brokaw said.
Brokaw and many of those he coined the “greatest generation” also have a very positive view of 20-something Americans.
In conversations with the older generation, Brokaw said he gleaned positive insights about the way they perceive their grandchildren’s lives.
Grandparents describe young people as bright citizens with more opportunities than they themselves ever had. Brokaw also noted that young people are more willing to take risks than the previous generation.
“When I go across America or around the world to the most hellish places, I always find young Americans working as paramedics, social workers or tutors,” Brokaw said.
“These young people now are fearless about their futures,” he added. “They’re willing to take more chances and to do things.”
Brokaw also paid tribute to his favorite statesman, former Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey. The news anchor and the Minnesota politician both grew up in South Dakota.
Throughout the lecture, Brokaw peppered his presentation with witty commentary on public officials like former Vice President Dan Quayle and Gov. Jesse Ventura.
Ventura came under scrutiny during Brokaw’s speech for his affiliation with a Nevada brothel.
Brokaw began his lecture by announcing a breaking news story that he felt obligated to report. He informed the audience Quayle had decided to end his bid for the Republican presidential nomination.
“He said, ‘I quit. I K-W-I-T quit,'” Brokaw quipped.

Megan Boldt welcomes comments at [email protected] She can also be reached at (612) 627-4070 x3224.