In Boom!, author and former NBC Nightly News Anchor Tom Brokaw dives into the lives of public and private citizens of the baby boomer generation and their distinct experiences of the 1960’s.
Two hundred pages before launching into stories from President Bill Clinton, Brokaw highlights the Vietnam War experiences of Tom and Nellie Coakley. Tom Coakley, a public member on the ABC Board of Directors, is a below-the-knee amputee stemming from suffering battlefield wounds suffered in 1968. Brokaw focuses on equally on Tom and Nellie, who served as Tom C’s favorite nurse at Walter Reed Hospital throughout his recovery. It is their unique stories and perspectives about the war and the way it shaped our country and their lives that is highlighted in the chapter “Married to Vietnam: Tom and Nellie Coakley.”
One unique aspect to this generation-specific novel is Brokaw’s focus on changing attitudes. The author shares a close relationship with many of his subjects, and draws from past interviews to show how their attitudes concerning the events of 1968 have changed over time. For the Coakley’s, this relationship began over 30 years ago when as a young promising journalist Brokaw attended a speech by Nellie. Brokaw’s memories of this speech and their subsequent conversations serve as a foundation for how he expresses their current reflections.
About Tom Coakley
ABC public member Thomas F. Coakley, a below-the-knee amputee for over thirty-seven years, serves as the senior public member on ABC's Board of Director. A wounded veteran from Vietnam, Tom considers himself reasonably well treated compared to the public at large and has dedicated considerable time and energy to raising the standards of amputee patient care to those less fortunate.
In his day job as Vice president for Administrative Operations at St. Lawrence University in upstate New York, Tom oversees the administration of numerous university facilities and departments. Tom came to St. Lawrence in 1982 as a visiting lecturer in economics, for what he believed to be a year "to figure out where he was headed next." Prior to leaving the faculty side of the house Tom served on University Faculty Council.
Tom was born and raised in Canton, the home of St. Lawrence University. He earned his bachelor's degree at Brown University, served in the US Army in Vietnam, and returned to earn his MBA from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. Tom is married to Nellie Coakley, a former Army nurse, also serving in Vietnam. They have four children, Kristen and Sean, who are St. Lawrence graduates, Erin a graduate of St. Lawrence, and Brian, a Hamilton College graduate. In addition to his ABC responsibilities, Tom serves on several civic boards, currently serving as President of the County Chamber of Commerce and Treasurer of the Canton Potsdam Hospital.
About the Book (RandomHouse Publishing)
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, and we learn from a wide range of people about their lives. 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.