Friday, November 9, 2007

Brokaw revisits the '60s with new book, documentary

Brokaw revisits the '60s with new book, documentary

NEW YORK (Reuters) - It was a year of assassinations, escalating U.S. casualties in Vietnam, riots on college campuses and in inner cities, and even The Beatles offered their view of the day with a song called "Revolution."Scholars, sociologists and the people who lived through 1968 are quick to say those 12 months were among the most volatile in modern U.S. history.

NBC News veteran Tom Brokaw has revisited the year, and the era, through a new book and an upcoming documentary, and says the effects of 1968 can still be seen today from the way Americans dress to the way they fight a war.

"BOOM! Voices of the Sixties, Personal Reflections on the '60s and Today," was published this week, and "1968 With Tom Brokaw" premieres on The History Channel on December 9. Both feature interviews with social activists, Vietnam War veterans as well as political, entertainment and sports figures.

After documenting the men and women who fought World War II in the best-selling "The Greatest Generation," the former NBC evening news anchor has turned his attention to a year in which two of the leading figures in American life -- Sen. Robert Kennedy and the Rev. Martin Luther King -- were assassinated.

It was also the year when U.S. deaths in Vietnam in 1968 would total more than 16,000, the highest annual figure of the war, and when anti-war protesters" were set on by police in the streets of Chicago during the Democratic national convention.

But despite political and social turmoil and challenges to traditional American values from the drug-fueled youth counterculture, Brokaw says the United States learned some valuable lessons and changed accordingly.


"I think the most positive and historic changes were related to the civil rights movement," Brokaw told Reuters. "This country finally began to confront the hypocrisy of deeply rooted segregation, de facto in the North and in practice in the South."

Brokaw said that nearly four decades later, the debate continues over the lasting effects of that wrenching period.

"There were a lot of benefits from the '60s. People could be individuals, not just the man in the grey flannel suit or a member of the lonely crowd. But eventually political correctness took over, the country became deeply polarized and ideology took over in both parties," he said.

Comparisons between the Vietnam War and the current war in Iraq are inevitable. Critics of both describe the "quagmire" similarities, yet anti-war demonstrations today pale in comparison compared to those of the 1960s.

Brokaw lays "95 percent" of that on the fact there is no draft and says the mood would change swiftly if there was.

"A lot of the moral outrage in this country ended when the draft ended," he said.

Brokaw says the 1960s, as a mind-set, began with the murder of President John F. Kennedy and ended with the Watergate scandal and the resignation of Richard Nixon in 1974.

"I think exhaustion had something to do with the end of the '60s," he said with a laugh. "The war ended, that took away a lot of the flash point. Richard Nixon, when he went away, there was a note of triumph on the left.


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