by Tom Brokaw, 2007, Random House, Inc., New York
I first encountered this book at a lecture given by Tom Brokaw at Brown University probably back in 2008. His latest book, Boom! was the topic of the lecture. During the first half of the lecture Brokaw reviewed the events of 1968 one by one. I was then in my junior year at Brown so Brokaw’s retelling of the events was as if I was reliving them. I couldn’t believe how the impact of this part of the lecture was so raw and emotional for me.
Brokaw then, in the second half of the lecture, related how the events of the sixties were impacting the political and cultural world of 2008. At the end of the lecture I had the opportunity to buy the book and, as Brokaw signed the book, I told him about our graduation experience at Brown when we turned our backs on our commencement speaker, Henry Kissinger. Tom Brokaw said he hadn’t been aware of that incident.
After the lecture, which I attended with my son, Peter, and his future wife, Erika, we went to dinner. When I asked them what they thought of the lecture, they said the first part (the revisiting of the events of 1968) didn’t have much interest for them. The second half they found somewhat interesting, however. It was then that I realized how much difference a generation can make in how the events of history are perceived.
I took the book home, and I didn’t pick it up again until this year. Because it was written almost nine years ago, it is somewhat dated. Barack Obama was just starting to pick up momentum in his first campaign for the presidency. Hillary Clinton was still the frontrunner. Brokaw decries the hard divisions that existed between the right and left, but was expressing some hope that we could come together and begin solving some of the pressing problems of our country and the world. After eight years of one of the most divisive presidencies ever, I wonder how he would view our situation today.
The book provides some interesting vignettes of some of the major players in the sixties and their current thoughts and perspectives on those times and the issues and how they evolved. Because of my interest in that era, I thought that most of them were quite interesting to me. I doubt, however, that my son or daughter-in-law would find them quite as interesting. Brokaw also provides much of his own experiences in meeting those individuals back then and his thoughts and perspectives.
Where the book fails, I think, is that the author didn’t do a very good job of tying things together at the end. In the final chapter, where he had a chance to really delve into the issues and provide his final thoughts, he continues to focus on some additional individuals. By the time I got to this point, I was ready for him to wrap it up rather than bring more people into the spotlight. I was a little disappointed that he left it hanging as much as he did.
It was an interesting read for me and brought back many memories. In addition, it provided some information about some of the individuals who were front and center during those times. I would, however, have liked the author to bring it together a bit more at the end. It would be nice if Tom Brokaw would be willing to author a short afterword to bring us up to date on where the world has moved since he wrote the book.