BILLINGS – Former network news anchor Tom Brokaw spoke at Billings Clinic last week, talking partly about healthcare, his battle with cancer and stories he has covered.
Brokaw started working for NBC News in 1966 and on Thursday, he gave his thoughts on politics and culture in the United States.
“A lot of people say this is the worst time in modern American history,” Brokaw said. “I don’t think it is but we’re working hard to make it that way on both sides. “And my strong, strong feeling as a journalist for 55 years is that we’ll not work our way out of it unless we work together.”
Brokaw then talked about how the country came through difficult times.
“The worst time in my judgment was 1968,” he said. “We lost 16,000 people in Vietnam. Dr. King, one of the heroic figures in American life was murdered in Memphis, Tennessee while he was trying to settle a sanitation strike.
"And not that long after that, Bobby Kennedy was murdered. But what held us together? Our institutions held us together. The fact that the people invested in the institutions and believed in the rule of law and believed in the separation of powers that we have in Washington," Brokaw added.
He also saw the “Great Recession” from 2007 to 2009, "people in America lost faith in institutions and they lost faith in part because of enormous abuse at the top, especially in financial institutions.”
Brokaw also gave his assessment of some of the presidents he has covered, “I started covering Ronald Reagan in 1966 when he was running for governor of California,” Brokaw said. “He restored American faith in itself.”
“Bill Clinton was as adept a politician as I’ve ever known but he had a lot of fatal flaws in terms of his personality," Brokaw said. "Jimmy Carter is the best ex-president we’ve ever. He simply was not ready for the job and it, of course, all caved in on him.”
“Nixon will befuddle me for the rest of my days. He was a brilliant guy when it came to international," Brokaw added.
Brokaw has a take on what will help America, "be open to the ear of your neighbor and have civil discussions about what is in the best interests of the country."
The veteran journalist also said hospitals are examples of institutions that work well.
He also talked about Former Senators Bob Dole and Daniel Inouye. Dole was a Republican Senator from Kansas from 1969 to 1996 and a U.S. Representative from 1959 to 1969. Inouye was a Democrat Senator from Hawaii from 1963 to 2012 and a U.S. Representative from 1959 to 1963
Brokaw said Dole and Inouye were roommates after getting injured during World War II and they worked well together in the U.S. Senate, despite being from different political parties.
Brokaw and his wife live part of the year in Livingston.