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Author and journalist Tom Brokaw talks economic justice, improving education during Hult Center lecture

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The Eugene Symphony welcomed esteemed broadcast journalist and author Tom Brokaw to the Hult Center last night for his lecture “The Voice of a Generation” and the narration of a performance of Aaron Copland’s “A Lincoln Portrait.”

The events were part of “Counterpoint: War and Peace,” a citywide, month-long visual, literary and performing arts initiative intended to open the community to conversation about cultural enrichment and common issues that engage people in struggle.

Brokaw spoke in length about economic justice and its ties to improving education.

“I believe education to be the currency of the 21st century,” Brokaw said. “We can’t have a society that is so uneven that you have one educated class over here and then a resentful uneducated class over here that has been shortchanged by something that should be a compact for all of us.”

Brokaw’s lecture title is derived from his 2004 book, “The Greatest Generation,” which chronicles the virtues of World War II-era Americans, who Brokaw believes had a bond of sacrifice uncommon in history. His interest began with his 1984 trip to Normandy, when he met a group of D-Day veterans and heard their stories.

Asked if our generation has what it takes to become just as great, audience member and journalism professor Peter Laufer said, “The limitations of public service are only within ourselves. At the University, every day I see an extraordinary amount of engagement that is truly inspirational to witness.”

In explaining his choice to narrate the piece, Brokaw reminded listeners that the most crowded section of his bookshelf consists of Abraham Lincoln biographies.

“In those days you had to earn your keep as a politician, voter by voter,” Brokaw said of Lincoln. “You didn’t just go on television. You had to go up and down Main Street. The people who voted for you had to approve of your character, which you had to demonstrate to them.”

The Lincoln Portrait was composed in 1942, at the height of patriotic fervor in the wake of Pearl Harbor and the U.S. intervention in the war. The work is customarily narrated with the reading of excerpts of President Lincoln’s great documents, including the Gettysburg Address.

School of Journalism and Communication Dean Tim Gleason said regarding Brokaw’s appearance and performance, “This is someone who has spent 40 years at the highest levels of journalism and is a great example of someone who did his work with great integrity and craft.”

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