Tom Brokaw Presents Bridging the Divide

I’ve become a Tom Brokaw fan. From his reporting as an anchorman for NBC News, to his great book, The Greatest Generation , where he beautifully describes his father’s generation of World War II vets, I have admired his focus and style of storytelling. This morning’s discovery reinforced the positive admiration I have for his work. I watched his documentary on USA Network Tom Brokaw Presents Bridging the Divide . It is showing again soon and I encourage everyone to watch it.

I cannot say it better than the description on USA’s website:

Nearly fifty years since the beginning of the civil rights movement in America, what is the status today of racism, religious freedom, equality for women, gay rights, access for people with disabilities, bullying among kids and more? Tom Brokaw Presents Bridging the Divide dives head first into these complex issues facing the nation’s increasingly diverse population, and looks at the impact of the current economy, the rise of technology, social media and the 24-hour news cycle. Brokaw speaks to a wide array of experts to get beyond the salacious headlines and provide a truer and more complete picture of where the country stands.

He’ll also introduce us to champions of change, ordinary citizens doing extraordinary work in communities around the country to help put an end to social injustice.

What action should you take based on the new knowledge you will learn from his documentary? Pick from among the many causes and issues he highlights and get involved in any way you see fit. You will then be part of the solution rather than either part of the problem or a person who stands by and does nothing. Please remember the words of Edmund Burke,  “All that’s necessary for the forces of evil to win in the world is for enough good men to do nothing.”


Mark Twain – Lessons of How to Tell Your Life’s Story

I just listened to today’s broadcast of National Public Radio (NPR)’s program Fresh Air (one of my favorite radio programs). One of the interviews today was of Robert Hirst, director of the Mark Twain Project (University of California, Berkeley) April 21, 2010 marked the 100th anniversary of Twain’s death. According to Twain’s wishes, his autobiography, written in the later years of his life, was not to be published until at least 100 years after his death. Hirst talked about the unique way Twain (real name Samuel Clemens) wanted to write his autobiography.

From the NPR report: Twain knew early on that he wanted to write an autobiography, but his first efforts to put his story on paper failed. He attributed his troubles to trying to follow a chronological calendar; a plan that, he wrote, “starts you at the cradle and drives you straight for the grave, with no side excursions permitted.”

Then, in 1904, Twain hit upon the right way to tell his story. “Start at no particular time of your life,” he wrote. “Wander at your free will all over your life; talk only about the thing that interests you for the moment; drop it at the moment its interest starts to pale.” Naturally, he couldn’t resist a comic hyperbole, adding, “It’s the first time in history such a method has been discovered.”

Twain hit on a great point. Most people who think about capturing their life’s stories get bogged down with how to do it and in what order it should be done. Twain’s “wander at your free will all over your life…” approach takes a lot of pressure off the process. In other words, just say what’s on your mind when it’s on your mind! And these days, you don’t even have to write it down. Just talk into a digital recorder or sit in front of a video camcorder and start talking.

It just might even be fun to do! As Twain himself puts it, “You will never know how much enjoyment you’ve lost until you get to dictating your biography,” he wrote. “You’ll be astonished at how like talk it is and how real it sounds.”

Twain recorded a massive amount of his life’s story. The first volume is now available (a second volume is due to publish shortly). But as the Chinese proverb states, “The longest journey begins with a single step.” We don’t have to be a brilliant writer like Mark Twain to begin recording our stories. We just have to start stepping! And remember, with Mark Twain’s method, “side excursions” are permitted!