Friday, May 16, 2008

“When a person takes part in community action, his health improves. Something happens to him or to her biologically. It's like a tonic." "The older you are, the freer you are, as long as you last." "Take it easy, but take it." "I came up as the Titanic went down." (Note: Also as the Colorado Caucus came up.) Studs Terkel, born on this day (New York, 1912.) He moved with his family to Chicago in 1922 where he spent the rest of his life, eventually as a radio & TV broadcaster, author (Working, Touch and Go), and social historian.

From an interview with Studs Terkel on Democracy Now! in 2007:

AMY GOODMAN: I want to play a little bit of the tape, that—the interview that you did with Bertrand Russell. It was 1962. You interviewed the British philosopher at his home in North Wales. This is an excerpt:

STUDS TERKEL: Why do people, the great majority of people the world over, feel as helpless as they do, they feel as impotent as they do? This seems to be in the air, I’m sure, all over the world, feeling that the individual, I, John Smith, John Doe, says, “I can’t do anything about it.”

BERTRAND RUSSELL: That’s just [inaudible]. They can. I mean, an individual, if he has the pluck and the independence of mind, can do a very great deal. Actually, here we sit, no organization, none whatever, and simply by expressing an opinion which is known to be unbiased, an individual can effect a very great deal. And this powerlessness of the individual is a form of cowardice; it’s a pretense, an alibi for doing nothing.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Bertrand Russell, the British philosopher. Studs Terkel, it was in the midst of the Cuban Missile Crisis.

STUDS TERKEL: Right there. I’ll never forget that. He was very strong. He said he sent cablegrams to Khrushchev, to Nehru and to Kennedy. He said, “I heard from two of them: Khrushchev and Nehru. Didn’t hear from your president.”

It’s 5 a.m. now as I write this. After waking early, I just listened to this interview with Studs Terkel. Very moving.

I woke feeling discouraged, but as I listen to Studs, read about him, and write this for you, I'm filled with enthusiasm: You and I can make a difference. Let’s get started! Faith without works is dead.

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