Air University Awards Tom Brokaw Honorary Degree
Tom Brokaw speaks during a honorary degree ceremony held Monday. Lt. Gen. David Fadok, commander and president of the Air University, Dr. Bruce Murphy, vice president for academic affairs, and Dr. Jack Hawkins, chair of the AU Board of Visitors, presented Tom Brokaw with a hood and diploma recognizing his honorary Doctor of Letters degree. (Air Force photo/Donna Burnett)
by Kelly Deichert
Air University Public Affairs
11/16/2011 - MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. -- The Air University honored Tom Brokaw with an honorary degree Monday.
"You are one of the most trusted and respected figures in broadcast journalism," said Lt. Gen. David Fadok, commander and president of the Air University, during the ceremony at Polifka Auditorium. "The magnitude of a news event could be measured by whether or not Tom Brokaw showed up on the scene."
Fadok, Dr. Bruce Murphy, vice president for academic affairs, and Dr. Jack Hawkins, chair of the AU Board of Visitors, presented Brokaw with a hood and diploma recognizing his honorary Doctor of Letters degree.
As a journalist with NBC News, Brokaw covered many military topics, ranging from the 60th anniversary of the D-Day invasion in Normandy, France, to the war on terror.
After the attacks on Sept. 11, "You tried to explain the unexplainable to a shocked nation," Fadok said. "You uttered the prophetic words, 'This will be a different country from now on."
He received acclaim for "To War and Back," a comprehensive look on the challenges veterans face when returning home from the Middle East.
Brokaw also is a best-selling author and coined the term "the greatest generation" in reverence for those who served in World War II.
While in Normandy, France, covering the 40th anniversary of D-Day, he said his life changed forever when he realized how much was owed to that generation and how little had been done.
This generation survived the Great Depression and led lives of sacrifice and dedication to a common cause, Brokaw said. "We prevailed," he said. "To them we're forever grateful."
After extensive interviews with World War II veterans, Brokaw said they were reluctant to talk. His best-selling book "The Greatest Generation" gave them a voice and launched his campaign to show service members their stories are important and need to be shared.
He told the story of a friend of his, a journalist who covered the tsunami in 2005, who met Marines helping with relief efforts. The journalist was so impressed by their dedication to service, he joined the military and served in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"Matt says it's the best thing he ever did in his life because it's how he got to know America in a way he couldn't if he was a journalist," Brokaw said.
Brokaw's friend recounted how he felt safe around these Marines, knowing they were highly trained. But more than that, they had a responsibility to each other, an obligation to those above and below them in rank and a responsibility to the nation.
Brokaw saw this dedication to country in members of the greatest generation but is disheartened with how polarized the nation has become. This is why service members' stories are important to the nation, bridging the gap Brokaw sees between civilian lives and military sacrifice.
He asked how people want historians to remember them. "We all have to ask ourselves, how do we leave the best imprint of our time," he said. "We have to find a way to be more than the sum of our parts," he said.
This is why his speech Monday and his recognition by the Air University are so significant to him.
"It's a great honor, and thanks especially for your service," he said.