When Tom Brokaw takes to the podium as the keynote speaker in this afternoon's Class Day festivities, the eyes of many current and future world leaders will be upon him.
He's used to that.
To millions of Americans, Brokaw is the beloved anchor and managing editor of "NBC Nightly News," one of the nation's top-rated broadcast news shows.
Brokaw, 56, has covered the events that have defined American life, and he has traveled to all four corners of the world.
In the meantime, he's never lost that common touch. To those who know him well, Brokaw is at once an athlete, an academic, a joker and a journalist.
Today, the South Dakota native stands before the Class of 1996, a midwesterner in Harvard Yard.
"Tom really is the quintessential Renaissance man," says Jeffrey A. Zucker '86, the producer of NBC's "Today Show" and a former Crimson president. "He's an incredibly intelligent, sophisticated person. But he's never forgotten his roots, where he came from, both the place and the people."
"That's what makes him great," Zucker says. "That's why people connect with him."
Many expect Brokaw, a 30-year veter an at NBC, to help seniors reflect upon their goals and ambitions as they shed the confines of the academy for life in the real world.
"Too many people come out of college and take pleasure off the high board," Brokaw says in a telephone interview from the NBC studios in New York.
"They don't have the opportunity to stop and reflect about what they really want from life," he says. "You should try to develop a long-curve attitude about what really matters to you."
Midwestern Work Ethic
Brokaw grew up in a modest two-story home in Yankton, Souh Dakota, a farming community of 13,000 along the Missouri River.
With its small downtown, two main streets and local high school, Yankton is a typical Midwestern village. By sunrise, most of the residents are either at work on the farm or heading towards the factory.
Brokaw is the oldest of three sons in an Irish, working-class family. His father, "Red" Brokaw, built dams along the Missouri River for the Army Corps of Engineers and stressed the importance of a strong work ethic.
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