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Boom!

Cover of Boom!

Boom!

Voices of the Sixties Personal Reflections on the '60s and Today
In THE GREATEST GENERATION, his landmark bestseller, Tom Brokaw eloquently evoked for America what it meant to come of age during the Great Depression and the Second World War. Now, in BOOM!, one of...More
In THE GREATEST GENERATION, his landmark bestseller, Tom Brokaw eloquently evoked for America what it meant to come of age during the Great Depression and the Second World War. Now, in BOOM!, one of...More
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  • In THE GREATEST GENERATION, his landmark bestseller, Tom Brokaw eloquently evoked for America what it meant to come of age during the Great Depression and the Second World War. Now, in BOOM!, one of America's premier journalists gives us an epic portrait of another defining era in America, as he brings to life the tumultuous sixties, a fault line in American history. The voices and stories of both famous people and ordinary citizens come together as Brokaw takes us on a memorable journey through a remarkable time, exploring how individual lives and the national mindset were affected by a controversial era and showing how the aftershocks of the sixties continue to resound in our lives today. In the reflections of a generation, Brokaw also discovers lessons that might guide us in the years ahead.

    "Boom! One minute it was Ike and the man in the grey flannel suit, and the next minute it was time to Turn on, Tune in, Drop out. While Americans were walking on the moon, Americans were dying in Vietnam. Nothing was beyond question, and there were far fewer answers than before."

    Published as the fortieth anniversary of 1968 approaches, BOOM! gives us what Brokaw sees as a virtual reunion of some members of "the class of '68," offering wise and moving reflections and frank personal remembrances about people's lives during a time of high ideals and profound social, political, and individual change. What were the gains, what were the losses? Who were the winners, who were the losers? As they look back decades later, what do members of the sixties generation think really mattered in that tumultuous time, and what will have meaning going forward?

    Race, war, politics, feminism, popular culture, and music are all explored here, as we learn from a wide range of people about their lives: Bill Clinton, Colin Powell, Dick Cheney, Joan Growe, Ruth Simmons, Paul Simon, Garry Trudeau, James Taylor, Nora Ephron, Joan Didion, and many, many more. Tom Brokaw explores how members of this generation have gone on to bring activism and a sixties mindset into individual entrepreneurship today. We hear stories of how this formative decade has led to a recalibrated perspective–on business, the environment, politics, family, our national existence.

    Remarkable in its insights, profoundly moving, wonderfully written and reported, this revealing portrait of a generation and of an era, and of the impact of the 1960s on our lives today, lets us be present at this reunion ourselves, and join in these frank conversations about America then, now, and tomorrow.

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  • From the book

    Chapter 1

    A Loss of Innocence

    I felt everyone else wanted to be in our world. We were the last generation to be cooler than our kids.
    --Tom McGuane

    There's a big "what if" over the Sixties. . . .Who knows what would have happened if King and Kennedy were alive?
    --Tom Hayden

    In 1968 America was deeply divided by a war in Southeast Asia and it was preparing to vote in a presidential election in which the choices were starkly different. The country was in the midst of a cultural upheaval unlike anything experienced since the Roaring Twenties. Everyone wondered whether America could regain its balance.

    Forty years later, another war, this one in the Middle East, was deeply dividing the United States. Republican and Democratic candidates for president were laying out starkly different scenarios for the country's future. The place of America in the world was hotly debated. The popular culture was again an issue.

    The eve of 2008 was not exactly the Sixties all over again, but we still have a lot to learn from that memorable, stimulating, dangerous, and maddening time in American life forty years ago.

    I arrived in Los Angeles to join NBC News in 1966, and by then, Charles Dickens's opening lines in A Tale of Two Cities had never seemed so prophetic. Were these the best or the worst of times? I wish I could say I felt the tremors of seismic change beginning and spreading out across the political and cultural landscape, but I was mostly trying to find my way. I was a twenty-six-year-old pilgrim from the prairie heartland, raised with the sensibilities of a Fifties working-class family. I was the father of a toddler with another child on the way.

    I fit the prototype of the typical young white male of the time. I had been a crew-cut apostle of the Boy Scouts, reciting the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag, attending Sunday school and church, drinking too much beer in college but never smoking dope; marijuana in the Fifties and early Sixties was the stuff of jazz musicians and hoodlums in faraway places.

    Before I married the love of my life, my high school classmate Meredith, we had never spent a night together. In those days, parked cars and curfews were the defining limits of courtship.

    We were married in 1962, when Meredith was twenty-one and I was twenty-two, in a traditional Episcopal church wedding with a reception at our hometown country club. We left the next day with all our worldly possessions, including the five table cigarette lighters we had received as wedding presents, in the backseat of the no-frills Chevrolet compact car her father had given us as a wedding present.

    We were eager to see a wider world, but only one step at a time. California was still four years away. Our first stop was Omaha, Nebraska, which then was an unimaginative and conservative midsize city a half day's drive down the Missouri River from our hometown. We could barely afford ninety dollars a month to rent a furnished apartment, but when we went looking, in the stifling heat of a Great Plains August, I was dressed in a jacket and tie, and Meredith was wearing part of her honeymoon trousseau, including a girdle and hose. Five years later, I rarely wore a tie except on television, and Meredith was freed not only of girdles but also of hose and brassieres on California weekends.

    In 1962, I had an entry-level reporter's job at an Omaha television station. I had bargained to get a salary of one hundred dollars a week, because I didn't feel I could tell Meredith's doctor father I was making less. Meredith, who had a superior college record, couldn't find any work because, as one personnel director after...
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