SOJC students and faculty interviewed world famous news anchor Tom Brokaw while he spent a November day in Eugene at the Ford Alumni Center and the Hult Center for the Performing Arts.

by Katie Dettman

“We asked less than one percent of our population to do 100 percent of the fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, which turned out to be the two longest wars in our history,” said Tom Brokaw during a press conference preceding his narration of Aaron Copland’s A Lincoln Portrait with the Eugene Symphony Orchestra on November 22. During the day, Brokaw also participated in a luncheon at the Ford Alumni Center, and gave a lecture titled “Voice of a Generation” at the Hult Center in the early evening.

“Unless we knew somebody who was fighting, we could put it out of our minds,” he continued. “I think that’s immoral. And now these young people are coming home, and they’ve been warriors for ten years. They’re coming back to a broken economy. They don’t have the skill sets to re-enter. And it’s not going to be easy for them.”

SOJC junior and Iraq War veteran Adrian Black was at the press conference, reporting for the Oregon Daily Emerald where he is a general assignment reporter. Although Black, who hails from Kent, Ohio, was not able to ask a question during the press conference, he said he would have asked Brokaw “if there was a decisive moment when he knew that he was no longer a student of journalism but a journalist; if there was some moment that solidified his career choice.” Another question he would have asked was about Brokaw’s call for Americans to volunteer, and to “re-enlist as citizens,” which he advocates in his new book, The Time of Our Lives. Black, who served two tours in Iraq, worries that his generation does not have a common goal as the “greatest generation” (the parents of baby boomers) had. “The youth don’t really have a purpose right now,” he said.

The first question at the press conference was given to SOJC adjunct instructor Suzi Steffen. Working on a story for MyEugene.org, she asked: “Given what’s going on in the US today, we’ve got conflict at home and we’ve got conflict abroad, what can or should be the role of classical music in dealing with these conflicts?” She believes she was given the first question in part because of the five years she spent as the Performing Arts editor at the Eugene Weekly.

SOJC Edwin L. Artzt Dean Tim Gleason welcomed Brokaw to the stage for the evening lecture and narration of A Lincoln Portrait. “Tom Brokaw is one of the most trusted and respected figures in broadcast journalism. He covered the Civil Rights movement in Atlanta, and the Watergate scandal from the White House, where he was NBC’s correspondent. He interviewed presidents and world leaders and covered events around the world. And he did it all with integrity and with a clear sense of broadcast journalism’s public mission and purpose. We’re honored to co-sponsor his visit.”

Brokaw said that all journalists are in some ways students of Lincoln. “It’s hard to overstate the power of his words and the memory of what he did and the debt that history owes him,” said Brokaw, who has narrated Copland’s piece a number of times around the country.