I Remember, episode #114

A 2002 Milwaukee Public Television produced series "I Remember" featuring a half hour interview with Studs Terkel. Jim Peck interviews Terkel on location in Chicago.

00:00Copy video clip URL Tape begins with a black screen.

00:15Copy video clip URL An MPTV graphic rolls before the program begins.

00:21Copy video clip URL Quick fade in to Studs Terkel speaking to an audience at a book signing. The video then fades into a short introduction of Terkel and into an intro segment for the show.

01:05Copy video clip URL Cut to a shot of host, Jim Peck, with Studs Terkel in the living room of his home in Chicago. Jim Peck introduces Terkel to the television audience and rolls a segment that gives the viewer some information about Terkel, specifically his new book, Will the Circle Be Unbroken? and a brief synopsis of his life. The segment is compiled of footage from his speech at a book signing in Wisconsin and various pictures of Terkel throughout his career.

04:28Copy video clip URL Fade in to a shot of Jim Peck as he asks Terkel about his beginnings in New York and Chicago. Terkel tells Peck about his love for Chicago. “It was my city. I belong to Chicago. It’s my town. That is, my town that I feel most comfortable here. It’s my home.” Peck then asks Terkel about his unhealthy childhood. Terkel talks about a few of the illnesses that he had been inflicted with as a young boy.

06:45Copy video clip URL Peck asks Terkel about an alleged fear of sleeping. Terkel then begins to talk about his newest book, Will the Circle Be Unbroken? He admits that this book may be his last book. Terkel discusses the search for faith and how the book is seemingly about death but that it’s actually about life. He also talks about some of the characters he included within it. He quickly tells the story that opens the book, which involves two people who had been previously included in his book Working.

11:00Copy video clip URL Terkel talks about how death had been a taboo for quite a while, but states that when you ask people about it, they do want to talk about it. He states that there should be a natural inclination to talk about death because it is inevitable. He then goes into a story about one of the characters in the book. Peck asks Terkel whether he set out to learn something or teach something with his newest book. Terkel responds, “Neither, it’s just the job I do as I’ve done with all books–neither to learn, nor to teach, but to find out. What makes people tick?” Terkel then talks about some of his other books and relates them to Will the Circle Be Unbroken? He says that writing a book on death makes sense because it is the one experience that all living people have not had, but will have.

13:50Copy video clip URL Peck asks whether Terkel had been surprised by anything as he wrote the book. Terkel says that he was surprised and exhilarated by the gallantry of people. “See this book, I’m going to tell you right now, is the most alive book I’ve ever done. …It’s alive, and that’s about life. People say [Terkel brings his hand up to his mouth and begins to whisper], ‘What’s your book about? Do you talk about death?’ No, I talk about L-I-F-E, life.” Peck then asks Terkel about his early memories of the Depression. Terkel responds, “Well my memories of the Depression were what it does to the self-esteem of a person when he’s not working and wants to work.” He then begins to talk about his early years living at a men’s hotel with his parents in Chicago. At the hotel, Terkel was able to see the self-esteem of working men dwindle after the Depression hit. He also states that the Depression has very strongly molded his thoughts socially and politically. He then speaks a little bit about how our society has placed less importance on the older generations in the working world.

17:23Copy video clip URL Peck asks Terkel about his experience hearing the news about the attack on Pearl Harbor. Terkel gives a detailed account of his experience and gives the viewer a sense of what Chicago was like shortly after the announcement had been made. Terkel goes on to state that America was the only country in WWII that had neither been attacked nor invaded. He relates the feeling of many Americans during that time to the general feeling of most Americans after 9/11 and states that the two cannot be compared due to a number of different circumstances. He also speaks of fundamentalism and that it is dangerous in any form, not just with regard to Islamic fundamentalism. He also says that when we are victimized we’re more vulnerable, more human, and more connected to the world.

22:52Copy video clip URL Peck asks Terkel about the objection to entering WWII by some Americans at that time. Terkel refers to it as more of a strong isolation rather than an objection. Terkel talks about President Roosevelt and says he admired him quite a bit, but also condemns his actions having to do with the internment of Japanese Americans during WWII. Terkel describes that action as “shameless” and also confesses his fear of that happening to Muslim Americans post-9/11.

24:37Copy video clip URL Peck asks Terkel if there was a feeling of victory among Americans about WWII. Terkel talks a little bit about the feeling and how many were certain that we would win. Peck also brings up the subject of the atomic bomb and Terkel talks about Einstein and his theory that led to the creation of the bomb, and the importance of understanding one another and a sense of community among the countries of the world and the sense that we live in one world.

26:48Copy video clip URL Peck asks Terkel what his epitaph would be. Terkel responds, “Well my epitaph is a simple one. My epitaph is ‘ curiosity did not kill this cat.'” Terkel then expresses his profound interest in the human race. He quotes Mark Twain in calling human beings “the damn human race,” in both a loving and despicable way. “Human race is incredible. The same being, species, that gave us Beethoven’s ninth and gave us Hamlet, also gave us Auschwitz and Hiroshima. You see, the same one, the same being.” Peck then thanks Terkel for his time and ends the interview.

27:50Copy video clip URL The credits begin to roll. Included with the credits is footage of Terkel speaking at a book signing in Wisconsin.

28:32Copy video clip URL Tape ends.



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