Pittsburgh Speakers Series: Tom Brokaw

27 Apr

Last night was the final Pittsburgh Speakers Series talk for the 2011-12 season.  Tom Brokaw was the honored guest.  As the median age for this event is around 62, the lobby was buzzing with excitement when I arrived.  Heinz Hall was packed full of eager, giddy olds.

Brokaw was my least favorite speaker of the season.  His entire speech dripped of nostalgia for the Greatest Generation.  He was less scornful of younger generations than I expected, but a hint of disdain was unmistakeable.

Brokaw and I just don’t see eye to eye.  I am distrustful of nostalgia.  Brokaw’s glasses are heavily rose tinted, and for what? Praising the past leaves you stagnant, it does not help anyone to progress toward a better future.

Brokaw got a standing ovation.  I did not wish to stand, but I also didn’t want to be the only jerk sitting, so I stood.  However, I didn’t find much that was insightful in his speech.

After going through the entire season, I do now understand and agree with the “Subscription Only” sales philosophy for the series.  They do not sell individual tickets–the only sell subscriptions to the entire series.  The motivating philosophy is that attendees should be exposed to speakers they might not otherwise consider, and may learn something new and insightful.  This was truly my experience.  My favorite speaker of the season was Michelle Rhee, whom I had never heard of before buying my tickets.  My second favorites were Valerie Plame Wilson and Joe Wilson, and tying for third were Ron Chernow and Michael Pollan. (Brokaw lagged far behind in fourth place, and I unfortunately was not able to attend Azar Nafisi or Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s talks). The only person whom I really knew about before attending was Michael Pollan, and attending talks by speakers whom I would have never otherwise been interested in opened my mind to new and interesting topics.

Renewals for next year’s series are on sale now, and I have to decide whether I am going to attend.  Next years speakers include Bill Clinton, Vincente Fox, and the author of The Glass Castle whose name I can’t remember right now (her talk looks the most interesting to me).  This series certainly works hard to put a good set of speakers together, and should be commended for a season well done.

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3 Responses to “Pittsburgh Speakers Series: Tom Brokaw”

  1. Sandy April 27, 2012 at 8:35 am #

    When we were talking about this yesterday I was going to say “I bet it will be good unless he goes on and on about the Greatest Generation.” Sorry he did that. I guess that’s the generation that actually still has money to pay for things so he can earn income.

    I might be interested in the speakers series next year. I HATED that Glass Castle book, but that might be a good thing.

    • BeezusKiddo April 27, 2012 at 8:39 am #

      He went on and on about how they returned from war and worked hard in factories to support their families.
      Hey remember WHEN there were factories?

      • BeezusKiddo April 27, 2012 at 8:40 am #

        actually i don’t remember…the factories were gone before i was born

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