Great Throughts Treasury

This site is dedicated to the memory of Dr. Alan William Smolowe who gave birth to the creation of this database.

Studs Terkel, fully Louis "Studs" Terkel

American Author, Historian, Actor and Broadcaster, awarded Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction for "The Good War"

"I believe that only by being in the presence of beauty and the great things in the world around us can man eventually get the goddam hatred of wanting to kill each other out of his system. We begin to understand, that we're only in this world such a short time it’s incredible we should spend these few years hating and killing each other."

"‘Hope dies last' was a phrase used by Jessie de la Cruz, one of the first women to work for Cesar Chavez in organizing the farm workers union."

"A man? If I need a man, wouldn't you think I'd have one of my own? Must I wait for you?"

"Ah, Chicago. Were I living in New York or L.A., I'd have been dead meat long ago."

"A man comes from New York. He says, These petitions, your name is on all of them: anti-poll tax, anti-lynching, friendship with the Soviet Union.... don't you know the communists were behind them? And he said, Look, you can get out of this pretty easy. All you got to do is say the communists duped you. You were dumb. You didn't mean it. I said, But I did mean it! To this day people say, Oh, Studs, you were so heroic. Heroic? I was scared shitless! But my ego was at stake. My vanity. Whaddya mean, I'm dumb? [on his black-listing]"

"Anybody can be redeemed. I've seen it."

"Before that, it was a rooming house. In that hotel, there were these guys arguing. There were the old-time union guys and there were nonunion guys."

"At a time when pimpery, lick-spittlery, and picking the public's pocket are the order of the day — indeed, officially proclaimed as virtue — the poet must play the madcap to keep his balance. And ours."

"All the other books ask, 'What's it like?' What was World War II like for the young kid at Normandy, or what is work like for a woman having a job for the first time in her life? What's it like to be black or white?"

"Being neither a sociologist nor a research man, motivational or otherwise, I followed no blueprint or book of set statistics. I played hunches—in some instances, long shots. Irvin Cobb observed, ?All horse players must die broke.' Here is one who will die astonished."

"Aug. 9, the day of the operation, you know what day that was? Sixty years to the day the bomb dropped on Nagasaki. Amazing... the human race designs something like that, something that kills, and then the same human race designs things to save human life."

"Birthday presents are good even at 95."

"Cannot Hannah Arendt's 'banality of evil' be subject to transposition: the evil of banality?"

"But once you become active in something, something happens to you. You get excited and suddenly you realize you count."

"Curiosity never killed this cat: That's what I'd like as my epitaph."

"How come you don't work fourteen hours a day? Your great-great-grandparents did. How come you only work the eight-hour day? Four guys got hanged fighting for the eight-hour day for you."

"His ingenuity and his faith in the good taste of people are what made WFMT, ... He believed the public--and by that he meant ordinary people--deserved the best in broadcasting."

"For the first book, I interviewed one mother of four little kids, skinny, pretty, bad teeth — meaning no dental care — and the kids are jumping around, 'cause they want to hear their mamma's voice played back... and so I play it back, and she listens to what she said on the tape and she says, 'Oh my God,' she says. ' I never knew I felt that way before' ... That's pretty hot stuff, isn't it? That's hot stuff. That's the stuff."

"Chicago is not the most corrupt American city, it's the most theatrically corrupt."

"I always love to quote Albert Einstein because nobody dares contradict him."

"I call myself a radical conservative. What's that? Well, let's analyze it. Go to the dictionary. Radical: One who gets to the roots of things. And I'm a conservative because I want to conserve the green of the grass, the potability of drinking water, the first amendment of the Constitution and whatever sanity we have left."

"I don't recognize my own neighborhood."

"I guess I was seeking some balance in the wildlife of the city as Rachel Carson sought it in nature. In unbalanced times, balance is as difficult to come by as Parsifal's Grail."

"I have a big mouth, and I never met a petition I didn't like, so of course in the McCarthy days I got in trouble."

"I hope for peace and sanity - it's the same thing."

"I never drove a car. I'm hopeless that way. I press the wrong buttons on the tape recorder. But if the person I'm interviewing helps me out, that person feels needed. People need to feel needed."

"I never met a picket line I didn't like."

"I originally said, `No,' ... I was feeling not so much scared as lost. There was a one in four chance that I wouldn't make it."

"I hope that memory is valued - that we do not lose memory."

"I like quoting Einstein. Know why? Because nobody dares contradict you."

"I think it's realistic to have hope. One can be a perverse idealist and say the easiest thing: 'I despair. The world's no good.' That's a perverse idealist. It's practical to hope, because the hope is for us to survive as a human species. That's very realistic."

"I said, "Suppose communists come out against cancer, do we have to automatically come out for cancer?" I can't take back that I'm against the poll tax, that I'm against lynching, that I'm for peace."

"I was born in the year the Titanic sank. The Titanic went down, and I came up. That tells you a little about the fairness of life."

"I was walking downstairs carrying a drink in one hand and a book in the other. Don't try that after ninety."

"If it weren't for the warm grates we would've had 80 frozen corpses down there during the big blizzard."

"If solace is any sort of succor to someone, that is sufficient. I believe in the faith of people, whatever faith they may have."

"I'm called an oral historian, which is something of a joke. Oral history was here long before the pen, long before Gutenberg and the printing press. The difference is I have a tape recorder in my hand."

"I want a language that speaks the truth."

"I want people to talk to one another no matter what their difference of opinion might be."

"I want to praise activists through the years. I praise those of the past as well, to have them honored."

"I want, of course, peace, grace, and beauty. How do you do that? You work for it."

"I thought, if ever there were a time to write a book about hope, it's now."

"I'm seeing something and I'm not standing silent about it. Humans are pushed out to make room for cars."

"In order for us, black and white, to disenthrall ourselves from the harshest slavemaster, racism, we must disinter our buried history.... We are all the Pilgrim, setting out on this journey."

"It is still the arena of those who dream of the City of Man and those who envision a City of Things. The battle appears to be forever joined. The armies, ignorant and enlightened, clash by day as well as night. Chicago is America's dream, writ large. And flamboyantly."

"I'm not up on the Internet, but I hear that is a democratic possibility. People can connect with each other. I think people are ready for something, but there is no leadership to offer it to them. People are ready to say, 'Yes, we are part of a world.'"

"I'm not an optimist. I'm hopeful."

"I'm celebrated for celebrating the uncelebrated."

"More and more we are into communications; and less and less into communication."

"I've always felt, in all my books, that there's a deep decency in the American people and a native intelligence - providing they have the facts, providing they have the information."