Jim Abbola interviews Studs Terkel. They discuss Terkel's most recent book, Hope Dies Last: Keeping the Faith in Difficult Times, and the ideal of hope in American society.
00:00Copy video clip URL Black screen.
00:19Copy video clip URL Interview begins.
01:24Copy video clip URL Jim Abbola asks Studs Terkel how he can talk about hope given the kind of life he’s lead. Terkel talks about his recent book, Will the Circle Be Unbroken?, on the topic of death. Studs asserts that “without death there is no life to celebrate.” Terkel explains that the only issue he did not touch on in his books was hope, making it a natural subject for him to study. He says the American people need “all the facts,” that there is a “sense of decency” in the American people. However, Studs feels that they are “suffering from a national Alzheimer’s Disease. … The grandchildren of those who needed the government’s help during the Depression are complaining about ‘too much big government.'”
03:15Copy video clip URL Studs explains how the title of his book Hope Dies Last came from an interview with activist and United Farm Worker, Jesse De La Cruz, and that this book is a tribute to activists. He expresses his thoughts on the Patriot Act as “unpatriotic … that act itself is un-American.” Studs quotes Thomas Paine and notes that the country was born out of dissent. Studs says activists of various causes give us hope and asks “Without hope, what’s the alternative?”
06:00Copy video clip URL Abbola asks how such a “liberal of our time” does not put all his faith in the government. Studs says hope should be grassroots, but the government must be involved. Terkel explains how the government bailed people out when free enterprise failed during the Depression. Studs says his “faith in the American people is greater than George W. Bush’s” and believes Americans are intelligent once “they have the facts.” He claims the Bush administration is assaulting our intelligence, and blames the media for much of it.
08:30Copy video clip URL Abbola asks about the lack of negativity in Studs’ books. Studs says “there’s no point” to negativity. He talks about the dichotomy of being for or against the war [in Iraq] being transformed into being for or against “those kids” [the soldiers]. Studs tells the story of Kathy Kelly, who was in Iraq protesting missile silos and sites. She planted corn where there was no vegetation before, because of the missiles. When the authorities came to arrest her she told them, “I’m hoping for the corn to grow … would you pray with me for the corn to grow?” She asked a young soldier to pray with her and he later poured water into her mouth when she was thirsty. She refused to recant and spent a few years in jail. Studs describes the picture on the New York Times cover with US soldiers conducting searches of children in Iraq, while they would probably rather be home “planting corn.”
13:24Copy video clip URL Abbola asks if Studs is looking back more than looking forward. Studs responds by asking “How can we have a present without having knowledge of the past?” He adds that the present leads to the future, and you need thought for the future. Studs quotes Emily Dickinson, saying “hope is a thing of feathers.” He claims “hope” is the most overused word in the English language. He then discusses the late Senator Paul Simon and the “prophetic minority.” He gives examples of great activists, from the abolitionists to the Civil Rights Movement.
15:15Copy video clip URL Abbola asks about whether being an activist today is difficult, as the term is often mocked in popular culture. Studs says it’s “not difficult at all.” He briefly talks about his background growing up in a men’s hotel, and how he would listen to men debating. Terkel expresses his opinion that “These people who are afraid to express their opinion don’t realize that there are others who feel as they do.” He says the current administration’s power is based on fear, then quotes Thomas Paine’s “Common Sense,” saying “‘Freedom has been hunted round the globe; reason was considered a rebellion. The slavery of fear made men afraid to think. But such is the irresistible nature of truth, that all it asks and all it wants the liberty of appearing. In such a situation, man becomes what he ought to be, he sees his species not with the inhuman idea of a natural enemy, but as kindred.” He claims this is the opposite of the Bush administration. Studs says there are millions of people living in fear, and that hope should be the prevailing force, not fear. Studs believes the media itself has “trivialized” so many things and misused language. Studs talks about Rupert Murdoch and claims he is one of the most powerful media moguls in our country.
19:30Copy video clip URL Abbola asks if Studs is disappointed with the “overwhelming support” for the Iraq war at its outset, and why it takes so long for Americans to realize what war is. Studs repeats his assertion that “America is suffering from a national Alzheimer’s disease … Yesterday’s news is ancient history now.” He tells the story of an admiral, a hero in WWII and Vietnam, who monitors Pentagon activities. This admiral discusses how since the end of WWII, the U.S. has engaged in more military expeditions outside the country than any empire in history. Studs believes it takes so long for people to realize what war really means because nobody makes the effort to find out. Studs recalls 1945 and the Nazi surrender along with the formation of the United Nations. He believes that the U.S. has gone from well-loved and respected internationally to being “loathed.”
23:20Copy video clip URL Abbola asks again if Studs is disappointed by where we are as a nation. Studs says it’s a hard question to answer and says “I’m disappointed there isn’t a stronger dissent, but I’m not disappointed because there IS [dissent].” He describes the Letters-to-the-Editor in the Chicago Tribune as being “fifty-fifty” for and against the administration. Studs says that gives him hope, that there’s an “undercurrent that something better can be done.” Studs says he’s not being a “starry-eyed idealist.” He believes that “knowledge is necessary.” He believes Americans have the intelligence but need information, and that is where the mainstream media has failed.
25:30Copy video clip URL Studs says his hearing impairment does good things, because when President George W. Bush said “embedded journalists,” Studs heard “in bed with journalists.” He says journalists need to be more like the muckrakers. He says he has “faith in the intelligence of the American people and their sense of decency.” He says he is FOR the soldiers, but against the “mindless guys in power, the armchair warriors.”
26:25Copy video clip URL Small break in tape; black.
26:45Copy video clip URL Jim Abbola narrating over video footage of the interview and Studs at a book signing.
27:60Copy video clip URL Abbola shows archival footage of Studs during his TV days.
28:25Copy video clip URL Studs talks about hope being an overused word. Studs says “Without dissonance, there is no America. We were born out of dissonance.”
29:11Copy video clip URL Tape ends. Black.