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Studs Terkel quotes (showing 1-30 of 65)

“Work is about a search for daily meaning as well as daily bread, for recognition as well as cash, for astonishment rather than torpor; in short, for a sort of life rather than a Monday through Friday sort of dying.”
Studs Terkel
“I always love to quote Albert Einstein because nobody dares contradict him.”
Studs Terkel
“People are hungry for stories. It's part of our very being. Storytelling is a form of history, of immortality too. It goes from one generation to another. -Studs Terkel”
Studs Terkel
“Most of us have jobs that are too small for our spirits.”
Studs Terkel
“You know, 'power corrupts, and absolute power
corrupts absolutely?' It's the same with powerlessness.
Absolute powerlessness corrupts absolutely. Einstein
said everything had changed since the atom was split,
except the way we think. We have to think anew.”
Studs Terkel
“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.”
Studs Terkel, Touch and Go: A Memoir
“Curiosity never killed this cat’ — that’s what I’d like as my epitaph”
Studs Terkel
“More and more we are into communications; and less and less into communication.”
Studs Terkel
“God, grant me serenity to accept those things I can't change, the courage to change those I can, and the wisdom to know the difference."

-Division St.”
Studs Terkel
“What I remember most of those times is that poverty creates desperation, and desperation creates violence.”
Studs Terkel, Hard Times: An Oral History of the Great Depression
“Most people were raised to think they are not worthy. School is a process of taking beautiful kids who are filled with life and beating them into happy slavery. That's as true of a twenty-five-thousand-dollar-a-year executive as it is for the poorest."
Bill Talcott - Organizer”
Studs Terkel, Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do
“What I bring to the interview is respect. The person recognizes that you respect them because you're listening. Because you're listening, they feel good about talking to you. When someone tells me a thing that happened, what do I feel inside? I want to get the story out. It's for the person who reads it to have the feeling . . . In most cases the person I encounter is not a celebrity; rather the ordinary person. "Ordinary" is a word I loathe. It has a patronizing air. I have come across ordinary people who have done extraordinary things. (p. 176)”
Studs Terkel, Touch and Go: A Memoir
“Chicago is not the most corrupt of cities. The state of New Jersey has a couple. Need we mention Nevada? Chicago, though, is the Big Daddy. Not more corrupt, just more theatrical, more colorful in its shadiness.”
Studs Terkel, Chicago
“The whole program of unemployment insurance, Social Security, was a confession of the failure of our whole social order. And confession of failure of Christian principles: that man, in fact, did not look after his brother.”
Studs Terkel, Hard Times: An Oral History of the Great Depression
“I presumably lost $150,000 in the depression of 1937—on my one stock investment—because I did everything Lehman Brothers told me. I said, well, this is a fool’s procedure . . . buying stock in other people’s businesses.”
Studs Terkel, Hard Times: An Oral History of the Great Depression
“We have two Governments in Washington: one run by the elected people—which is a minor part—and one run by the moneyed interests, which control everything.”
Studs Terkel, Hard Times: An Oral History of the Great Depression
“I'm not an optimist. I'm hopeful.”
Studs Terkel
“The poor are so busy trying to survive from one day to the next, they haven’t the time or energy to keep score.”
Studs Terkel, Hard Times: An Oral History of the Great Depression
“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.”
Studs Terkel
“Ruby Bates, one of the young white girls, was a remarkable person. She told me she had been driven into prostitution when she was thirteen. She had been working in a textile mill for a pittance. When she asked for a raise, the boss told her to make it up by going with the workers. She told me there was nothing else she could do...Ruby Bates was a remarkable woman. Underneath it all—the poverty, the degradation—she was decent, pure. Here was an illiterate white girl, all of whose training had been clouded by the myths of white supremacy, who, in the struggle for the lives of these nine innocent boys, had come to see the role she was being forced to play. As a murderer. She turned against her oppressors. . .. I shall never forget her.”
Studs Terkel, Hard Times: An Oral History of the Great Depression
“I’ll never forget that Depression Easter Sunday. Our son was four years old. I bought ten or fifteen cents’ worth of eggs. You didn’t get too many eggs for that. But we were down. Margaret said, ‘Why he’ll find those in five minutes.’ I had a couple in the piano and all around. Tommy got his little Easter basket, and as he would find the eggs, I’d steal ’em out of the basket and re-hide them. The kid had more fun that Easter than he ever had. He hunted Easter eggs for three hours and he never knew the difference. (Laughs.) “My son is now thirty-nine years old. And I bore him to death every Easter with the story. He never even noticed his bag full of Easter eggs never got any fuller. . . .”
Studs Terkel, Hard Times: An Oral History of the Great Depression
“I think most of us are looking for a calling, not a job. Most of us, like the assembly-line worker, have jobs that are too small for our spirit. Jobs are not big enough for people.”
Studs Terkel, Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do
“The worst day-to-day operators of businesses are bankers.”
Studs Terkel, Hard Times: An Oral History of the Great Depression
“I am paraphrasing Einstein. I love to do that: nobody dares contradict me.”
Studs Terkel
“After the stock market crash, some New York editors suggested that hearings be held: what had really caused the Depression? They were held in Washington. In retrospect, they make the finest comic reading. The leading industrialists and bankers testified. They hadn’t the foggiest notion what had gone bad. You read a transcript of that record today with amazement: that they could be so unaware. This was their business, yet they didn’t understand the operation of the economy. The only good witnesses were the college professors, who enjoyed a bad reputation in those years. No professor was supposed to know anything practical about the economy.”
Studs Terkel, Hard Times: An Oral History of the Great Depression
“How goddamn foolish it is, the war. They's no war in the worth that's worth fightin' for. I don't care where it is. They can't tell me any different. Money, money is the thing that causes it all. I wouldn't be a bit surprised that the people that start wars and promote 'em are the men that make the money, make the ammunition, make the clothing and so forth. Just think of the poor kids that are starvin' to death in Asia and so forth that could be fed with how much you make one big shell of. ~Alvin "Tommy" Bridges”
Studs Terkel
“They would sit and talk and tell us their hard luck story. Whether it was true or not, we never questioned it. It’s very important you learn people as people are.”
Studs Terkel, Hard Times: An Oral History of the Great Depression
“This I remember. Some people put this out of their minds and forget it. I don’t. I don’t want to forget it. I don’t want it to take the best of me, but I want to be there because this is what happened. This is the truth, you know. History.”
Studs Terkel, Hard Times: An Oral History of the Great Depression
“Perhaps it is this specter that most haunts working men and women: the planned obsolescence of people that is of a piece with the planned obsolescence of the things they make. Or sell.”
Studs Terkel
“In the meantime, I would work in the relief office and I began interviewing people . . . and found out how everybody, in order to be eligible for relief, had to have reached absolute bottom. You didn’t have to have a lot of brains to realize that once they reached that stage and you put them on an allowance of a dollar a day for food—how could they ever pull out of it?”
Studs Terkel, Hard Times: An Oral History of the Great Depression

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