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Tom Brokaw urges 'candor' from candidates

The presidential candidates should avoid the "ideological food fights" common to most campaigns and offer the American people a "game plan" for the future, Tom Brokaw told the Oct. 17 crowd at San Antonio's Alamodome.

The former anchor and managing editor of the NBC "Nightly News" was on hand to help kick off the ADA's 149th Annual Session. He was the featured speaker for the first installment of the ADA General Sessions and Distinguished Speaker Series, sponsored by Johnson & Johnson Healthcare Products.

Mr. Brokaw urged presidential hopefuls Barack Obama and John McCain to speak with "more candor about where they think we're going and how we're going to get there."

Addressing the recent economic downturn, the newsman noted, "We're going through a terrible trial now—there's no question about it. These financial transactions that have gotten us into so much trouble have been percolating for a number of years."

But the nation, he insisted, will recover.

"We are entering, I hope, a new phase of American life in which we get back to fundamental values like common sense and thrift," said Mr. Brokaw, the best-selling author of "The Greatest Generation," who started with NBC News in 1966. He is currently interim anchor of "Meet the Press," having stepped into that role after the death of his friend and colleague, Tim Russert.

As one who got his start in the days before cable and the Internet, Mr. Brokaw belongs to "a very small club" of former network anchors, a club chaired by 91-year-old Walter Cronkite.

The 68-year-old Mr. Brokaw acknowledged that the kind of success he's enjoyed in life can lead to an exaggerated self-importance. But fortunately, from time to time, something happens that brings you back to earth, he said.

Early in his career, Mr. Brokaw worked briefly in Omaha, Neb. Some years later, after he was appointed news anchor for NBC's "Today Show," he was approached by a stranger in a New York department store.

"You're Tom Brokaw," the man said.

"Yes, I am," replied Tom, rather grandly.

"I'm from Omaha," said the man. "You used to work there."

"Yes, I did," said Tom, now thoroughly puffed up.

The man stood for a moment, eyeing Tom in silence.

Finally, he asked, "Whatever happened to you?"