Smithsonian Honors Journalist Tom Brokaw With “Great Americans” Medal

Brokaw Gives Objects Reflecting His Career to the National Museum of American History
September 21, 2017
The Smithsonian's National Museum of American History will present its "Great Americans" medal to legendary television journalist and noted author Thomas J. Brokaw Sept. 21. During the event, he will donate a West Point presentation saber and two pieces of the Berlin Wall as representative of his more than five-decade career.
The "Great Americans" program, supported by David M. Rubenstein, a member of the Smithsonian's Board of Regents, includes a conversation between the recipient and Rubenstein and the presentation of a newly minted museum medal that recognizes lifetime contributions that embody American ideals and ideas.
"Tom Brokaw is a distinguished journalist and author whose reporting has helped Americans understand not only current events but also a perspective on history," said John Gray, director of the museum. "His dedication to freedom of the press and his work covering the White House, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the attacks and aftermath of Sept. 11 and his telling the stories of World War II all make Brokaw an outstanding representative of American democracy in action."
Brokaw was born in Webster, S.D., in 1940. From working as a White House correspondent during the Watergate scandal to the NBC Nightly News with Tom Brokaw, he has dedicated more than 50 years to informing the public. After 22 years at the anchor desk, Brokaw stepped down from NBC Nightly News Dec. 1, 2004. Currently he is a special correspondent for NBC. As an author, Brokaw wrote one of the most popular nonfiction books of the 20th century, The Greatest Generation, followed by six additional books, including Boom! Voices of the Sixties, The Time of Our Lives and, most recently, A Lucky Life Interrupted: A Memoir.
A recipient of every major award in his craft, including seven Emmys as well as numerous lifetime-achievement awards in journalism, Brokaw was most recently awarded the Legion of Honor in 2016 by the French government for his extensive reporting on World War II. In 2014, President Barack Obama presented Brokaw with the Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award of the United States.
Brokaw's donation to the museum includes a West Point presentation saber in a presentation box representing the Military Academy's Sylvanus Thayer Award and two pieces of the Berlin Wall in a presentation box, taken from when the wall came down between East and West Germany Nov. 9, 1989. Brokaw was the only American anchor to report on the destruction of the Berlin Wall, which had stood for 28 years as a forbidding symbol of the Cold War.
The museum will present Brokaw with a medal struck in 1.85 ounces of fine gold in Wisconsin. It features an American eagle with rays of the sun on the obverse or "head's side" with the words "Great Americans" and "National Museum of American History" struck around the image. The reverse side honors one of the museum's most important treasures, the Star-Spangled Banner, and includes the mission of the Smithsonian: "For the increase and diffusion of knowledge." It measures approximately 1 1/2 inches in diameter and was inspired by the rare Double Eagle coins in the museum's National Numismatic Collection, which were designed by famed sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens for the $20 gold piece. The medal was made possible by museum board member Jeff Garrett and designed by Michael Guilfoyle, an international designer of coins and medals.
The "Great Americans" award is presented annually to up to four recipients and includes an interview with the awardee moderated by Rubenstein and the opportunity for the museum to add objects to the national collections. More information is available at
Through incomparable collections, rigorous research and dynamic public outreach, the National Museum of American History explores the infinite richness and complexity of American history. It helps people understand the past in order to make sense of the present and shape a more humane future. The museum is located on Constitution Avenue N.W., between 12th and 14th Streets, and is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (closed Dec. 25). Admission is free. For more information, visit For Smithsonian information, the public may call (202) 633-1000.
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