Tom Brokaw: 'Greed and excess' led to Great Recession

The State (Columbia, S.C.)December 13, 2011 

Retired NBC “Nightly News” anchor Tom Brokaw congratulated the nearly 2,700 students who picked up their degrees from the University of South Carolina Monday by challenging them to rely more on their humanity and less on emerging technology to meet today’s challenges.

“You’ll not solve global warming by hitting delete,” Brokaw told the graduates, who came from all parts of the USC system.

“You’ll not eliminate reckless avarice by hitting backspace. You’ll not make society more just by cutting and pasting. And you should not surrender the essence of the human experience to 146 characters on a Twitter or a Facebook, however seductive the temptation.”

Brokaw’s remarks underscored his long career as a chronicler of what one of his books referred to as America’s “Greatest Generation.” He was blunt in describing a culture of materialism and greed that led to the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.

“Daily, there are painful reminders that the economic model that has defined your lives was a house of cards,” he said. “We did lose our way.

“We allowed greed and excess to become the twin pillars of too much of the financial culture.

“We became a society utterly absorbed in consumption and dismissive of moderation.”

Many of those graduating Monday said they are more interested in careers that would allow them to serve others than in lining their pockets.

Vance Benson, a 23-year-old who majored in business administration, played soccer at USC and plans to try out for a professional soccer team in Charlotte. If he doesn’t make it, he said he will look to join a Christian discipleship program in Montana.

Heather Stegall, a 22-year-old who majored in criminal justice, wants to find work in the legal profession, but she also wants a job that would accommodate her role as a military wife. Her husband, who is in the Army, is scheduled to graduate from USC in May.

Brokaw lauded military service and reminded the graduates that, while they were at USC, others were in war zones guarding American freedom, a comment that drew applause.

In his 1998 book “The Greatest Generation,” Brokaw described the sacrifices and triumphs of Americans who survived the Great Depression, won World War II and returned home to get an education and begin a family.

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