Brokaw: Bring Back Big Ideas

‘Big ideas unite us, small ideas divide us,’ Brokaw tells GAC attendees.

February 26, 2013

When U.S. troops returned from Europe and the South Pacific in the wake of World War II, Congress made a decision that would transform the nation for generations: It passed the GI Bill, which provided free college tuition to those who served during the world’s most devastating war.

“This gave us new industry and science that never stopped advancing,” journalist and author Tom Brokaw told GAC attendees Monday.

And when President John F. Kennedy took office, he issued a bold challenge: Go to the moon within a decade. That unleashed a torrent of investment and advancement in technology.

It’s time for another big idea.

“Big ideas unite us, small ideas divide us,” the 73-year-old icon said. “We’ve had a long run of small ideas lately. We need grand goals, not small steps.”

Brokaw blamed this small mindedness—and the constant anonymous, partisan prattle from online channels—for the gridlock that has gripped Washington.

“I’ve never seen the political system in such a state of instability in terms of getting things done. Our government ‘kicks the can down the road.’ What kind of philosophy is that? It used to be, ‘give me liberty or give me death.’ ”

Brokaw embraces credit union philosophy. Before taking the stage, he told CUNA staff he was excited to talk to credit unions because they’re community leaders.

And he offered advice for those unable to visit Capitol Hill: “Just watch the Kardashians—it’s the same thing.”

Brokaw said the next big ideas will revolve around women’s growing influence and technological advancements.

“Watch women change the world,” Brokaw said. “That’s a big idea.”

Brokaw unveiled a “Hail Mary” plan he believes could unite the nation and revive the allure of public service: Establish public service colleges with different disciplines, and send graduates into underserved communities.

He believes this would appeal to many in the millennial generation who have grander ambitions than a big paycheck.

“We need to knit ourselves together once again.”