Omnibus Lecture Series: Studs Terkel, Coming of Age

The Omnibus Lecture Series: Studs Terkel: Coming Of Age. Presented by Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne. Terkel gives a lecture on a broad range of issues that relate to his latest book: Coming of Age: The Story of Our Century By Those Who've Lived It.

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

00:15Copy video clip URL Intro sequence for College Access Channel is run.

00:42Copy video clip URL Title screen runs.

01:02Copy video clip URL The program begins with a long, wide angle shot of the stage about ten rows back from the podium. IPFW Chancellor Michael A. Wartell makes a few comments about the event. He then introduces journalist David Nichols to speak about Terkel.

2:21Copy video clip URL Nichols gives a very personal and heartfelt introduction. He gives a short biography on Terkel, talks about the importance of his writings, and provides a few personal anecdotes about Terkel. He predicts that 100 years from now, people will be reading Terkel’s books as representative of 20th Century American life. He also comments on the changing nature of communication. “It’s one of the great ironies of our times that as the hardware by which to communicate with one another increases in sophistication and reach virtually every day, our ability, perhaps even our will to communicate, seems diminished. The singular voice gets lost. Terkel is in the business of capturing singular voices, preserving them, insisting on their importance, and demanding a hearing for them.” Nichols goes on to say, “Terkel has said, ‘Most people have much to say, but they’ve never been asked.’ Studs of course started asking, and he’s kept on asking. …The record of our times is all the richer for his having captured so many American voices in his unique way.”

9:15Copy video clip URL Terkel takes the podium and immediately thanks Nichols for his introduction. He begins to break the ice by leading off with a funny anecdote about the fact that a friend had once told him that he should have been a preacher. “I’m standing before a pulpit, and I knew Mahalia Jackson [famous gospel singer], worked with her very closely, and Mahalia always said, ‘Studs, you should have been a preacher.’ And so I’ve got the pulpit. You’re my captive congregation. And when it’s over, we’ll have a collection.” Terkel tells the audience that there will also be a question and answer session after his lecture.

10:58Copy video clip URL Terkel begins to talk about the new millennium and the importance of documenting the past and learning from it. “It’s five years away now from the twenty-first century. It’s even hard to say, hard to believe–a new millennium, not a new century, a new millennium. And the twentieth century is five years away from a close. What is it that we have learned? What is it that we have learned from the past? And so I call upon those I think are the real historians of our time: the people who lived through the twentieth century.” Terkel then talks about Maggie Kuhn, founder of the Grey Panthers. He goes on to talk about the Depression and the fact that “big government” helped many people during that time. In spite of the political critics who claim that “big government” is to be avoided and that we should privatize everything, we must remember that “big government” saved a lot of people during the Depression. He uses Dixon, Illinois, Ronald Reagan’s home town, as an example of this. Terkel speaks of the Works Progress Administration, then begins to talk about the Cold War, the Sixties, the technological age, and their effects on American society. He also speaks of the importance of oral history, community, and getting outside ourselves.

19:40Copy video clip URL Terkel begins to talk about the lack of historical knowledge among the younger generation. He refers to it as a “national Alzheimer’s disease.” “It is something in which there is no yesterday, there’s something, amnesia, self-imposed, in which there is no yesterday at all, so therefore frauds can come along and say anything if there is no past.” Terkel then talks about the new generation of young conservatives and says that is sort of an oxymoron. Terkel tells a story about a young couple with whom he used to ride the bus. No matter how hard Terkel tried, he could not get them to hold a conversation with him. Finally, Terkel brought up the subject of Labor Day and found out that the two were anti-union. Terkel, in an amusing manner, then recounts the rest of the story in which he educates them about the importance of history in the labor rights that we enjoy today. He goes on to talk about the lack of recognition of the labor workers in the media. He then tells a story or two about a few of his characters from the book Coming of Age.

30:45Copy video clip URL Terkel begins to talk in detail about his views on technology. He explains that along with technological change comes a change in language. He then goes into another story about a character from Coming of Age. He also shares an anecdote about a particularly interesting experience with technology at the Atlanta Airport. The story is quite amusing and illustrates the dependence on technology and how it impacts our humanity. Afterwards, Terkel goes on to speak about another character from Coming of Age. He then ends his lecture by paraphrasing a poem written by Bertolt Brecht, a famous German poet and playwright. The poem illustrates how history is not so much about the famous and powerful people but those who live and are forgotten.

42:26Copy video clip URL Terkel begins to take questions from the audience. A woman asks Terkel about the effects of the Depression on America’s families. Terkel talks about the word “dysfunctional” and how it is used to mislabel modern day families and the danger of not remembering the past.

44:49Copy video clip URL A man from the audience asks Terkel about any favorite programs he had during his time in radio. Terkel talks about one of the most memorable programs he ever worked on. He then goes on to talk about his most interesting interview with C.P. Ellis, former Grand Cyclops of the Ku Klux Klan in Durham, SC. He tells the man’s tale with much passion and vigor and completely enthralls the crowd into a collective calm. This is quite a good story of conversion and race relations.

52:57Copy video clip URL Terkel responds to a question about what kind of advice the elders of a society should give young people today. Terkel states that the most important advice implied by many of the elders included in his books is the notion that young people should be involved with something outside of themselves. Terkel then talks about a character from his book Hard Times. There is a small two second connection break in the middle of Terkel’s story. It is very minor, and does not effect the overall viewing of the story. Terkel goes on to talk about the Titanic and the arrogance of humankind.

56:22Copy video clip URL A woman from the audience asks Terkel about the environmental crisis and how it seems like the nation can’t protect both the economy and the environment at the same time. Terkel comments on that by paraphrasing Albert Einstein’s thoughts on the world and how humankind thinks. Terkel ends the lecture by stating very eloquently, “Five years away from a new millennium, we’ve got to think in wholly new ways entirely. And the commonality that is in the human species, the global village that it is, at the same time preserving our differences, and it’s then we can wipe the floor with these frauds, provided, there is this concerted effort to think in new terms deeply, and profoundly, and fully, and humanely, and thank you very much.” Terkel then steps down from the podium and receives a nice round of applause. Credits roll as audience leaves the auditorium.

59:25Copy video clip URL Closing station signal.

59:47Copy video clip URL Tape ends.



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