R.I.P. Studs Terkel. A real populist.

By Rep. Larry Galizio (D-Tigard).

Anyone who's lost a family member or friend has experienced the melancholy felt when something wonderful happens, yet that person for whom you felt great affection isn't there to share it with you.

Although I never met the man, nor do I have any family connection, like millions of others, I felt great affection for Studs Terkel, who passed away Friday at the age of 96.

This close to the election, I haven't the time to properly describe the exceptionally productive contributions of this iconic figure. I will leave it to others to post web sites cataloging the life and career of Mr. Terkel, and I hope others will reflect upon their own favorite works of Studs.

It is perhaps ironic that we lost Studs when a faux-populist figure such as "Joe the Plumber" is cynically trotted out to represent the salt-of-the-earth American.

For Studs Terkel's work was largely about interviewing "average people" and mining their extraordinary experiences during times of great triumph and tragedy.

Here is a brief excerpt from his book "Race" published in 1992, in which he interviews a cross-section of Americans on the subject of race.

My wife was driving down the street in a black neighborhood. The people at the corners were all gesticulating at her. She was very frightened, turned up the windows, and drove determinedly. She discovered after several blocks, she was going the wrong way on a one-way street and they were trying to help her. Her assumption was they blacks and out to get her. Mind you, she's a very enlightened person. You'd never associate her with racism, yet her first reaction was that they were dangerous.


And from his work, "Hard Times" in which Terkel interviewed people and wrote about the Great Depression:

That there are some who were untouched or, indeed, did rather well isn't exactly news. This has been true of all disasters. The great many were wounded, in one manner or another. It left upon them an 'invisible scar'.... The suddenly-idle hands blamed themselves, rather than society. True, there were hunger marches and protestations to City Hall and Washington, but the millions experienced a private kind of shame when the pink slip came. No matter that others suffered the same fate, the inner voice whispered, "I'm a failure."

I simply felt compelled to acknowledge the passing of this great man amidst all of the frenetic electioneering that culminates on Tuesday.

I'm increasingly confident that I will be celebrating the historical election of the first African-American President of the US - and one who - just like Studs - knows Chicago quite well.

I only wish that Studs Terkel had had the opportunity to experience it with the rest of us.

Thank you Studs Terkel - we'll be sure to raise a toast to you on election night.

Comments

  • Laura Calvo (unverified)
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    Here's a Studs Terkel Video titled "Rocking the Boat".

    It's certainly worth the few minutes to watch, especially on the eve of this election.

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    Thanks Laura "Studs Place" was one of my Mothers favorite TV shows from the early fifties. It was taken off the air due to McCarthism.

  • Joe Hill (unverified)
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    What a rich life he lived and left to all of us! I am saddened only that he will not be able to experience with us the inauguration of the first African American president. His reflections on that event, and even more his listening to reflections of others will be an irreplaceable loss. I have a shelf in my library lined with his work and it's not enough this morning.

  • Scabbers (unverified)
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    Mr. Terkel will be remembered. I wrote a report for a College prep writing class in 1978, and my best source was Terkel's book on the great depression. I hope the "Working" musical is still playing somewhere.

  • Kurt Chapman (unverified)
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    I read "Working" as a young man in my late teens/early 20's. It should be required reading for all High School students. RIP Studs Terkel.

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    Thanks Larry. A very nice remembrance. I hope you caught the tribute on Prairie Home Companion over the weekend (for the record I listened to the podcast after walking my precinct). Garrison Keillor sang a Terkel version of "So long, been good to know you." It was very touching and worth a listen.

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)
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    Studs Terkel and Obama. Progressives pay attention. Your work begins if he is elected.

  • Dave Lister (unverified)
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    He was a fabulous writer. "The Good War" is one of the best things I've read from the average GI's perspective in the second world war.

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    I wish I had written this book by Studs Terkel:

    Working: People Talk about What They Do All Day and How They Feel about What They Do

    Real people always have the best stories, IMO. And he went out and captured them in print.

  • David (unverified)
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    <h2>Studs Terkel, along with columnist/author Mike Royko, were two of my favorites while growing up in the Chicago area. They both stood up for those with little or no power against those with a lot of power.</h2>
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