Brokaw's back at anchor

NBC newsman's piece tonight on 'Dateline' takes look at refugees from Sudan's civil war

— NBC's Tom Brokaw knows there's life after "Nightly News." But he insists he doesn't know when he might begin it � or what that new life will be.

Brokaw has resumed his anchor duties after spending much of the summer on vacation. His absence from the airwaves fanned speculation that he may soon abdicate the role he's had since 1983. The 61-year-old Brokaw, whose contract runs through in May, has declined to say if he will stay beyond that.

"Obviously, I'm thinking about the next phase of my life," he said last week and pledged, with a laugh, that it would not involve "indulging one of my fantasies, which is to grow a ponytail and ride a Harley into the sunset."

Besides "Nightly News," Brokaw can be seen tonight on a "Dateline NBC" special that looks at "The Lost Boys" � refugees from a bloody and seemingly endless civil war in Sudan. The report airs at 7 p.m. CDT.

Separated from their families in the mid-1980s and left to wander across the harsh landscape of Northern Africa, thousands of these boys eventually found their way to a U.N. refugee camp in Kenya.

Nearly a decade later, a group of them has been brought to the United States, where, in cities including Seattle and Rochester, N.Y., "Dateline" reports on their progress in adapting to a modern world after living in mud huts and cooking over an open fire.

Visiting with some of these young men, Brokaw joins them for a tour of a grocery store, where one marvels, "All this food came from where?"

"All over the world," Brokaw replies.

Everything is new for them � whether it's opening a drawer or remembering to shut the refrigerator door, not to mention a Seattle Mariners game, which several of the young men attend with Brokaw.

The game, Brokaw said, gave rise to a question about fame that wasn't caught on film: After noticing people ask Brokaw for his autograph, one of the young men inquired, "Mr. Tom, what do they do with that piece of paper?"

"What is so clear about these people who have gone through so much is their continuing innocence and naivete and eagerness to learn," Brokaw said. "They are about as pure as any human beings I've ever met."

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