Tom Brokaw's searching discourse on the increasingly elusive American dream is titled "The Time of Our Lives," but it might also be called "Grandpa Tom's Common Sense Recipe for What Ails America."

Grandparenthood and family are recurring themes in the book for the 71-year-old Brokaw, who will make two appearances Tuesday in the Twin Cities. He starts out writing about a grandfather clock that has followed his family from his great-grandfather's hotel in Bristol, S.D., to his ranch house in Montana, and he winds up the book ruminating in a touching way about the world his four granddaughters will inherit.

In between, the former NBC news anchor diagrams what's wrong with the country and how to fix it. Education reform, he says, is a silver bullet every bit as important to the nation's progress now as civil rights was in the 1960s. Public colleges and universities should be consolidated to save money and improve resources.

Mandatory national service (example: a Diplomatic Special Forces) would give everyone a stake in the country's welfare. Entitlements should be means-tested, and public-private partnerships encouraged.

Although prospects often look grim, Brokaw is optimistic about the future. "I have an abiding faith in the wisdom of the American people to get it right for the long haul," he writes.