Brokaw, Rosenblatt kick off week on art and craft of writing



Longtime friends Tom Brokaw and Roger Rosenblatt have spent the last 30 years in conversation, one could argue.

“We used to spend either the weekend before or the weekend after Thanksgiving together,” Brokaw said, describing the relationship among their circle of friends as “familial.”

“We would just spend the weekend talking about things that interested us. It was always about what was going on in national politics, what the cultural trends of the day were.”

At 10:45 a.m. today in the Amphitheater, the audience will be privy to such a conversation between the two, marking the first day of this week’s lecture series “Roger Rosenblatt and Friends” and the first morning lecture of the 2014 season.

Rosenblatt, a Chautauqua favorite, will be in conversation with a different member of his large group of literary friends every morning this week in the Amphitheater. The prolific author has published 14 books, including The Boy Detective: A New York Childhood, which was named a Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle selection for 2014.

Rosenblatt thinks that Brokaw will find “an audience wanting to have a literary discussion on the books that he’s written. And I think Chautauqua will be very pleased to see a different side of the newsman they’ve known their whole lives.

“He’s as good a guy as he appears to be on television, which is saying something.”

Brokaw, who served as the anchor and managing editor of “NBC Nightly News” from 1982 to 2004 and is the only person to host all three major NBC News programs, currently serves as a special correspondent for NBC News. He has published five books, including The Greatest Generation, an homage to the generation of Americans who came of age during the Great Depression and who fought in World War II.

MEET THE PRESS -- Pictured: Tom Brokaw -- NBC Photo: Mitchell Haaseth


That generation’s ethic inspires Brokaw. He recently traveled to Normandy to commemorate the 70th anniversary of D-Day, and then dedicated a new history museum in his hometown of Pickstown, South Dakota. Pickstown was founded just after World War II to house workers for the Fort Randall Dam, one of many public works projects funded by the federal government and credited with ending the Great Depression.

Brokaw expressed admiration for the generation that not only endured the many hardships of the 1930s and ’40s, but worked to re-energize the nation and rebuild its economy.

“How do we recapture that spirit that we’re a can-do, united nation, not a can’t-do, divided nation?” he said.

Brokaw then turned his attention to millennials, many of whom are the grandchildren of the “Greatest Generation,” a term he coined to describe those who grew up during the Great Depression.

“I think the younger people are looking for something to believe in,” he said, noting that millennials have “seen the penalty that has been paid by their parents” through the economic recession and wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Brokaw remarked on the low socioeconomic status of most of the troops — a major difference between these wars and World War II.

“The new generation is saying, ‘Put your cards on the table. Tell me why I should care about these institutions that don’t seem to care about me,’ ” Brokaw said. “And I have some thoughts about that.”