Thursday, November 11, 2010
Tom Brokaw, Cokie Roberts and David Brooks reported from Pebble Beach last weekend. Their speeches, delivered in the ballroom of the Inn at Spanish Bay, were funny, reflective and topical.
The Panetta Institute for Public Policy’s Jefferson-Lincoln Awards on Nov. 6 honored Brokaw, an NBC Nightly News special correspondent; Roberts, a senior news analyst for NPR and ABC News; and New York Times columnist David Brooks.
Institute Chairwoman Sylvia Panetta said this year’s event was the biggest in the awards’ 11-year history. The $400-a-head, black-tie ceremony sold out with more than 400 attendees, who were plied with hors d’oeuvres, champagne and live Latin and classical music. The immaculately dressed crowd was later wined and dined by a team of distinguished chefs headed by Sardine Factory co-founder Bert Cutino.
Brooks made light of the opulence. “When you live inside the Beltway, it’s good to get out and see the real America,” he quipped, to audience laughter. “I don’t know what everyone’s complaining about. Looks good to me.”
But he sobered for a spell to entreat more bipartisanship from both Democrats and Republicans.
Roberts, upon receiving her award, said: “I love the idea of receiving an award with the name Jefferson on it. He would have hated the idea of a woman achieving this. He said, ‘Women in public service is an idea the country is not ready for, and neither am I.’”
She then praised the Panetta Policy Research Program: “It’s an island of civility in a sea of cacophony. It’s essential graduates learn about public policy in this rational, interesting way.”
Brokaw limped to the stage in a cast for a broken ankle – an injury he’d used as a metaphor for the California budget while moderating a debate between gubernatorial candidates Jerry Brown and Meg Whitman.
His famous modulated voice dropped into a somber timbre as he talked about young men and women from the “flinty hills of New England to the barrios of Texas” currently serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. “They are less than 1 percent of the population, doing 100 percent of the fighting. It’s unjust to have these burdens borne by these working-class kids, and nothing is asked of the rest of us,” he says. “The least we can do is figure out some other way to perform public service.
CIA Director Leon Panetta, Sylvia’s husband, closed the ceremony with gravity. “Too little is said of the fact that we are a nation at war,” he said. “There’s more news about what Lady Gaga is doing than what our troops are doing.”