For Tom Brokaw, his new special on 1968 (9 p.m., Sunday on the History Channel) is a virtual reunion as people - some famous, some not - reflect on the lessons of that time.
"You know, when you go back to a reunion of your college class or your high school class," Brokaw said. "It gets around to: 'What did I learn? How have I changed?'"
And Brokaw hopes the two-hour look at the tumultuous year will spur viewers to reflect on that time.
The TV program has its roots in his latest book,
Boom! Voices of the Sixties
(Random House, $28.95), he said, because "1968 was the nerve center of the '60s."
Among those interviewed: musicians Arlo Guthrie, Michelle Phillips and Bruce Springsteen; comedians Lewis Black, Tommy Smothers and Jon Stewart; Andrew Young, who was with Martin Luther King Jr. when he was assassinated and Pat Buchanan, then a speechwriter for presidential candidate Richard Nixon.
"This is history being told by the people who experienced it and witnessed it," said David McKillop, an executive producer of
1968 With Tom Brokaw
, and head of programming for History Channel.
"The stories are told using the pronouns of 'me and I and we,' rather than 'they, them and those,' so they are very personal stories," McKillop said.
The program will help put the events of 1968 in perspective for people who lived through that year, he said, while younger viewers will be able to see and understand what their parents and grandparents experienced.
The special covers broad issues such as the Vietnam War, the presidential campaign, the assassinations of King and Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, the drug culture, college campus riots and space exploration, as well as the civil rights, women's, and anti-war movements.
Music from that year underscores the events and adds a powerful dimension to the story, McKillop said.
Brokaw was deeply involved in the production of
, which was a collaboration between the History Channel and a unit of NBC News.
"We have the personal perspective of the time by someone who has lived through it," McKillop said of Brokaw. "He's leading us on a journey through his eyes."
Brokaw began his journalism career in 1962, and later became the anchor and managing editor of
NBC Nightly News
for more than 20 years until he stepped down in 2004.
In the film, Brokaw occasionally shares some of his reflections and memories as he revisits people and places of the times.
He mentions being in the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood in San Francisco when the streets were "jammed with hippies and wannabe hippies from all over the world - tie-dyed shirts and love beads, bongo drums, smoking dope openly."
"I was dressed in a button-down shirt, a narrow tie and a suit," he says. "In this crowd, I was the freak."
For Brokaw, revisiting those times was emotional.