Studs Terkel speaks at the JFK School of Government at Harvard University. Also speaking is John K. Galbraith, a prominent political and economic figure of the twentieth century.
00:00Copy video clip URL Tape begins with black screen.
00:10Copy video clip URL Cut to a shot of a moderately-sized audience in attendance for the event. The host of the night, Phillip Sharp, is making introductions for both speakers, Studs Terkel and John K. Galbraith. Sharp refers to Terkel as a “work of art.”
02:10Copy video clip URL Terkel steps up to the podium and very flattered manner says, “I’ve been called many things in my life, but never ‘a work of art.’ When you say that, smile.” Terkel breaks the ice with a joke or two, and then begins to talk about his newest book, Coming Of Age: The Story of Our Century Told By Those Who’ve Lived It. He explains that the title of the book is somewhat ironic because Terkel’s “coming of age” comes seventy years after Margaret Mead’s Coming Of Age In Samoa, which is about younger people reaching the age of puberty. Terkel also talks about the basis of his book, stating that he set out to interview those who had actually lived through both the monumental and devastating events of the twentieth century. He brings up events such as The Great Depression, WWII, The Cold War, and the Sixties. Terkel talks a little about the Sixties and how great of a decade it was for activism. He then moves on fairly quickly and begins to talk about his feeling that younger people lack knowledge of history. Terkel mentions how many younger people are anti-labor. He tells a story about an upscale young couple whom he waited with at the bus stop in his neighborhood in the mornings for almost a year. Terkel had tried to make conversation with them in many instances, but he was never able to get them to reciprocate. Finally, one day, Terkel began to talk about Labor Day and how joyous of a holiday it can be. The man finally responds to Terkel’s comments by saying, “We loathe unions.” Terkel then begins to rip into the young couple about their hatred for unions being due to ignorance of history. The story is quite amusing. Terkel then goes on to tell a very heartfelt story about a character in his book.
13:36Copy video clip URL Terkel begins to talk about his notion of a “national Alzheimer’s disease” in America. “We have something in which there’s no yesterday. Something I call a national Alzheimer’s disease. There’s no yesterday. There’s no memory. There’s no memory because there is no yesterday. So in a sense the people in this book are describing that situation.” Terkel goes into greater detail about the forgetfulness of the past and The New Deal. He states that many of the people that are against “big government” have no idea how much “big government” helped the American people after the Depression. Terkel then moves on to talk about the current state of government and the informational age and its effect on society. He tells the audience an amusing story about an experience he had at the Atlanta airport on the monorail. Terkel receives a good amount of laughter, then thanks the audience and steps down.
22:22Copy video clip URL Phillip Sharp takes the podium and introduces John K. Galbraith, a prominent political and economic figure of the twentieth century.
23:12Copy video clip URL Galbraith takes the podium and begins to talk about his long friendship with Studs Terkel. He recounts his experiences being interviewed by Terkel. Galbraith then moves on to talk about the subject of growing old, his time at Harvard’s School of Politics, and the current state of politics in America. He then goes on to talk about his concept of what he calls the “still” syndrome.
32:46Copy video clip URL The sound cuts out for a few seconds.
33:15Copy video clip URL Terkel takes the podium and begins to take a few questions. However, beforehand, Terkel makes a comment about Galbraith. “I think Ken Galbraith ‘still’ has that exquisite sense of irony.” A young woman then asks Terkel what he thinks were the most profound changes of the twentieth century, how those changes affected him, and what advice he would have for young people in regards to the future changes that will come about. Terkel begins to talk about the Great Depression and political figures like Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Hopkins. Terkel states that those politicians and that government of the past paid special attention to the human needs of the American people in comparison to the current governmental officials of our time.
35:53Copy video clip URL A young man asks Terkel to talk about the hope for a good future and whether or not much of the criticism of the Sixties has any merit. Terkel responds to the question by stating that he believes that they are many new kinds of people that are more active in the political and social progress than in the past, specifically women, and labels the current time as a “contradictory moment or transitional moment” in the public’s government involvement.
38:23Copy video clip URL A man from the audience asks Terkel about the labor movement and whether or not we can have an equitable society without a resurrected labor movement. Terkel talks in detail about the current state of the labor movement and the notion that many young people are anti-union. He also talks about the fact that many of the conservative figures in the media world disable the process of gaining a proper understanding of the importance of unions in America. Galbraith then takes the podium and speaks about the subject, referring to the question posed as “one of the very important questions of our time.” He goes into great detail about unionized work and what needs to change within it in order to help resurrect it. Terkel then says a few words about the Cold War and its effect on society after Galbraith leaves the podium. He makes a very interesting point about how McCarthyism may have altered the nature of our language.
44:41Copy video clip URL Terkel is asked about the fact that he does not drive a car nor has he ever learned how to drive a car. Terkel states that he is a “professional pedestrian” and explains his motives behind never learning how to drive.
46:59Copy video clip URL A woman from the audience asks Terkel and Galbraith about their thoughts on human potential when they were in their twenties and what they think of those thoughts as they look back on them today. Terkel speaks of his wants and needs during that time. He explains that all he really wanted was a civil service job. He talks about an FBI job that he tried to get in 1934 after law school. He then claims there was a sense of hope during that time. Galbraith takes the microphone and first responds to the question about the information revolution. He then talks about one of the greater moments in law involving Clarence Darrow and the evolution debate.
53:13Copy video clip URL A man from the audience asks Terkel about the most interesting interview he had ever done and if there was one person that he could interview that he never got the chance to who would that be. Terkel responds to the question by bringing up his interview with C.P Ellis, the former grand cyclops of the Ku Klux Klan in Durham, SC. He tells the story with a great deal of passion and zeal. It is quite a moving story. After the story, Terkel talks a little bit about Albert Einstein. He then talks about some of the people he would have loved to interview, like Bernard Shaw and Charlie Chaplin.
01:00:21Copy video clip URL An audience member asks Terkel about what the book Working would look like if it were written one hundred years in the future. Terkel doesn’t have much to say about the subject because of his lack of knowledge about technology. Galbraith then takes the microphone and talks about the importance of realizing that the consumer society found in today’s advanced countries will be spreading all over the world in the future, and the fact that it’s spreading will create both positives and negatives throughout the world.
01:03:52Copy video clip URL Jim Tipton, an audience member, asks Terkel and Galbraith in a very soft spoken tone of voice whether or not there is hope for peace in the world and what young people can do to engage the process of gaining that peace. Terkel goes a little off topic by talking again about Lillian Smith, an author Tipton mentioned within his question. Terkel then talks about how his optimism for the future has dwindled, but his hope is still strong. Galbraith then takes the podium and tells an amusing story about Theodore Green, former head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The two receive a standing ovation and many handshakes from the audience members as they gather their coats and make their way out of the lecture hall.
01:10:16Copy video clip URL Tape ends.