ORLANDO, FL — Tom Brokaw's keynote address here yesterday at the Direct Marketing Association's 86th Annual Conference & Exhibition began with a recap of major historical events before shifting to future challenges facing the United States.
The 63-year-old “NBC Nightly News” anchor discussed the five most significant events during his lifetime. Four of them were Pearl Harbor, the end of World War II and the start of the Cold War, the assassination of President Kennedy and the fall of communism.
Then he described “that crystal-clear morning in early September, 9/11, a day that is etched in the memory of all of us [and that] changed the course of the world as we knew it. [It] was just two years ago, but it seems a lifetime.”
The national overconfidence was shattered, he said, as the United States became shell-shocked. Then he turned the focus of the address to the challenges Americans face in what he described as a war of cultures more than it is a war of nation-states as the Western alliance is profoundly divided.
“It is a world in which too many Muslims in too many places consider us the enemy,” he said. “We have to work harder at understanding this enemy. We have to find ways of establishing some common ground with the hundreds of millions of young Muslims who love our culture and would love to live here and hate our government.”
He talked about time spent in Iraq during recent years and what he observed about its people.
“The most unsettling and yet instructive time that I spent was at a distinguished university before the war began,” he said. “I met with graduating seniors, the best and brightest of Iraqi society. They were enthusiastic in their devotion to James Taylor, Whitney Houston and John Denver. They were also equally enthusiastic about joining the Iraqi army so they could fight the United States government. No army can kill them all, so we must begin to understand their rage.”
Statistics that were presented painted a potentially unsettling view for many in the West in the 21st century. Brokaw said that for more than a century Christianity has been the dominant religion in the world, representing about 30 percent of the population. Islam, in the closing days of the 20th century, represented about 20 percent of the world's population, he said.
“In the next 20 years or so, if current trends hold, those numbers will flip, and Islam will represent 30 percent of the world's population,” he said.
He also cited a worldwide poll revealing that most of those surveyed think of the United States as arrogant, abusing its power and unconcerned about the status of the rest of the world.