When I was a young man attending high school and college in Southern California I always watched NBC news because of the news anchor. He had good looks and a deep resonating voice. He beamed credibility. You believed him. We were disappointed when he got promoted, but proud of “our” anchor guy getting promoted. So I was very happy on the final day of SHRM 2012 to spend a morning with Tom Brokaw.
Brokaw looked up to and was friends with Walter Cronkite. Cronkite was my parent’s generation news anchor. Cronkite was trustworthy and believable. He said it they believed it. Brokaw was my Cronkite. Today at the age of 71 he still has his good looks, although with head full of grey hair, and his voice is even deeper. Because of what he has done, the books he has written and the specials he has created he is even more credible than he was in the past, if that is even possible.
In his keynote address today he had some compelling messages. Here are some of what he had to say:
- We need a “national conversation”. He has never seen so much bewilderment as he sees now.
- The time between now and the election is a geologic age in terms of election years. A “UFO” could easily occur and totally change everything. UFO stands for UnForeseen Occurrence.
- The big thing in the world that we are not paying attention to is the drug violence in Mexico. It is coming our way and it is our fault. We are the consumers that have produced that demand.
- Our kids have a wariness of institutions. They are a sharing generation as seen in their use of social media. And they are reluctant to take ownership as a result.
- “Mainstreet America” is not as divided as politics would lead you to believe, but they are concerned about community and many of these communities are working to improve their conditions.
- We are ending two wars that are the longest we have had. We have done it with a volunteer military that are less than 1% of our population. He feels how we are treating them is absolutely immoral in a democratic society. Now that they are coming back HR needs to make sure that changes. Vets MUST be welcomed back. They have excellent experience and a world experience few of your employees will have. Our society will benefit as a whole.
- We need BIG ideas. So far we our leaders have produced little ideas. Big ideas in the past have been the GI Bill, the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, the anti-war movement in the 1970s and the moon missions. He feels we need institutions that provide education in return for three years of service to the country and the world. We need to DEMAND big ideas from our politicians.
He ended with a story of taking his grandchildren to a cabin in the mountains. They were unsure about all the noises and animal sounds. But Tom and his wife left them in the cabin and went to sleep in their tent. However, in a few moments they heard the pitter patter of small feet, the door of the cabin opening up and a child’s voice saying, in a stern tone as could be mustered, “We need an adult in here right now!” Brokaw said “That is what our country needs.. an adult in here right now.”
He has a new book out and he has a special about the British people during the bombing of London in World War II, I am looking forward to both.