Tom Brokaw at NBC Nightly News was one of the best television news anchors of his time. Along with Peter Jennings at ABC News and Dan Rather at CBS, Brokaw was one of the "Big Three" news anchors during the Eighties and Nineties. He was intelligent and unlike many providing our news today, was extremely well versed in history, economics, and politics. In addition to his abilities as a news anchor, he is also an excellent journalist.
In 1998, Brokaw wrote the definitive book on the generation who grew up in America during the darkness of the Great Depression and then faced the storms of war in Europe and the Pacific. As Franklin Delano Roosevelt said, "This generation of Americans had a rendezvous with destiny."
These young men and women of The Greatest Generation knew the danger and sacrifices that would be required of them, yet they volunteered anyway. They fought not for fame or recognition, but because it was the right thing to do.
Despite living through the hardships of the Great Depression and the horror of war they did not become hardened or bitter. They were humble men and women who never bragged about what they had done or been through.
The Greatest Generation witnessed the worst of man's inhumanity to man, but instead of turning to anger and hatred or blaming their government, they came home and worked to make America a nation of humanity and tolerance.
They built the best schools and ensured that all children, rich or poor, would be provided a free education. Even though their own personal ambitions had been sidetracked by war they understood that a strong public education system was the key to ensuring a prosperous future for our nation. They took advantage of government mortgages and built millions of new homes to raise their families. Many more took advantage of the GI Bill to attend college for themselves, an opportunity that would not have been possible without this entitlement program. They joined labor unions to ensure fair wages and safe working conditions and went on to build economic stability for the middle class. They established Social Security and Medicare so that elderly Americas would no longer be forced to live out their final years in poverty. From the ravages of economic depression and war the Greatest Generation was able to construct the most prosperous period in our nations history during the Fifties and Sixties.
The courage, self sacrifice, and humanity of the Greatest Generation will forever cement their place in the history of our nation and serve as an example of what can be accomplished when Americans genuinely care for each other.
For the generations of Americans that have followed, there exists a sacred responsibility to keep faith with the generation that sacrificed so much to defend our nation from the dictators of Europe and Asia. The World War II generation passed to us a torch, a torch that can only be held high if we stand together with a sense of humanity and tolerance for each other.
Sadly, recent political discourse has made it clear that we have failed in that responsibility. Too many Americans are tearing away at the legacy of the Greatest Generation, replacing their qualities of humanity, tolerance, and humility with a new brand of hatred, indifference, and pretentious arrogance. We have failed to honor our pledge to maintain the unity and a sense of purpose provided by our parents and grandparents generation.
The Greatest Generation was able to rise above the fear and hatred of war and preserve the fundamental goodness that has always existed within the heart of our great nation. Their concern for the wellbeing of all Americans allowed them to see that it was in our best interest to provide a safety net for our people, not walls of fear that can only serve to further divide us.
The Greatest Generation still speaks to us and anyone that has walked the rows of grave markers at Arlington Cemetery can hear them whisper. Either we find a way to care and respect each other or this great nation could perish from the face of the earth. There are no divides in Arlington National Cemetery, liberal FDR Democrats lie for eternity next to the most conservative of Republicans. For all their political differences the one thing they held in common was a willingness to give their last full measure of devotion to their country so that government "for the people" shall not perish from the earth.