Studs Terkel interviewed by Edie Rubinowitz, covering political topics like leadership, war, and America's "national Alzheimer's disease" regarding our own history.
00:00Copy video clip URL “Do we have any leaders today?” Rubinowitz asks, and Terkel says no. “We have leaders today but they’re not leading,” and that people “have no sense of what was or what might have been, and I think we’re suffering from a national Alzheimer’s disease.” He also praises the administration of President Franklin D. Roosevelt during World War II and the Great Depression.
04:40Copy video clip URL The interviewer asks how Americans lost their sense of history, and Terkel attributes it to the conglomeration of media outlets. “The very nature of our organs of opinion, the press and now it’s TV and radio, is in the hands of few. The big boys.” However, he still feels “faith in the American people, that once they know a truth they’ll do the right thing.”
07:00Copy video clip URL Digressing again to American history, Terkel holds up Roosevelt and his “New Deal” administration as a model while criticizing Ronald Reagan’s presidency. He emphasizes that America should feed the world instead of wage war, and in so doing “we’d be one of the most beloved nations on earth instead of the most disliked.” He also says that journalist Bill Moyers would be a great president.
12:28Copy video clip URL “Everything in the world has changed since the atom was split, and that is the way we think. We have to think anew, and unless we do that we’re in the soup,” he said, paraphrasing Albert Einstein, again emphasizing the need to remember the past.
14:51Copy video clip URL Rubinowitz asks Terkel to explain the “us vs. them” mentality. He takes examples from World War II, the Vietnam War and 9/11 to explain America’s world presence and prevailing military ideologies. “The hope is, ironically,” Terkel says of the 9/11 attacks, “…our vulnerability might make us more human.”
21:24Copy video clip URL “But if we didn’t learn from that crucible of experience [of WWII] why do you think we’ll learn it now?” asks Rubinowitz. “Well, we have to. We have to have a means of opinion being expressed and open. There has to be some argument,” he says. Terkel also elaborates on his belief in “bottom-up history.” They go on to discuss the hierarchical structure of many societies.
26:00Copy video clip URL The interviewer asks Terkel about her own “generation of privilege.” “You mean you, and people you know. Most of this generation didn’t come out of privilege” Terkel says. He denies that young people today are a “spoiled generation” but also denies that people his own age form a “greatest generation.”
28:30Copy video clip URL Rubinowitz asks how history can be preserved, and Terkel says, “There are a million ways. … There’s no one way. Mostly we have to think. You can wave a flag and say, ‘I’m proud to be an American,’ and that’s fine, that’s good. But does does that make you automatically American because you’re wearing the symbol? No.” He again emphasizes the need to be “thinking” citizens.
29:30Copy video clip URL “So what have you done to get us to think?” she asks. “I don’t know, I’m just doing my job,” he says, explaining that he just seeks to find out from people “what it’s like” to have lived or experienced a certain period of history. He again emphasizes Thomas Payne’s call for an honest and open society and remembrance of history.”The key word is ‘think.’ We’ve given that up, and it’s time we reclaim that particular attribute,” he concludes.