Community in Action Studs Terkel has lived through and chronicled much of modern American history. He believes the positive changes brought by activist movements of the 20th century came from people working together.
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Community in Action

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Community in Action

Community in Action

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Unidentified Man #1: I believe in the power of love.

Unidentified Man #2: I believe...

Unidentified Woman #1: I believe...

Unidentified Man #3: I believe in the importance of...

Unidentified Woman #2: I believe that everyone...

Unidentified Man #4: I believe in people.

Unidentified Man #1: This I believe...


On Mondays, we bring you our regular series This I Believe. Today we hear from Studs Terkel. In this 93 years, he's published 16 books, many of them oral histories like "The Good War," which won a Pulitzer Prize in 1985. Here is our series curator, independent producer Jay Allison.

JAY ALLISON reporting:

Studs Terkel has spent a life listening to other people's stories and passing them on. It has been his way of encountering the world. We wanted to turn the microphone on him to hear the story of his beliefs. Here, recorded in his apartment the day before he entered the hospital for heart surgery, is Studs Terkel with his statement for This I Believe.

Mr. STUDS TERKEL (Author): My own beliefs, my personal beliefs, I came into being during the most traumatic moment in American history, the Great American Depression in the 1930s. I was 17 at the time, and I saw on the sidewalks pots and pans and bedsteads and mattresses. A family had just been evicted, and there was an individual cry of despair, multiplied by millions. But that community had a number of people on that very block who were electricians and plumbers and carpenters, and they appeared that same evening, evening of the eviction, and moved these household goods back into the flat where they had been. They turned on the gas, they fixed the plumbing. It was a community in action accomplishing something.

And this is my belief, too, that it's the community in action that accomplishes more than an individual does, no matter how strong he may be. Einstein once observed that Westerners have a feeling, individual loses his freedom if he joins, say, a union or any group. Precisely the opposite's the case. The individual discovers his strength as an individual because, along the way, discovered others share his feelings. He is not alone. And thus, a community is formed. You might call it the prescient community or the prophetic community. It's always been there. And I must say it has always paid its dues, too. The community of the '30s and the '40s and the Depression, fighting for rights of labor and the rights of women and the rights of all people who are different from the majority always paid their dues, but it was their presence, as well as their prescience, that made for our whatever progress we have made.

And that's what Tom Payne meant when he said, "Freedom has been hunted around the globe. Reason was considered as rebellion, and the slavery of fear made men afraid to think, but such is the irresistible nature of truth that all it asks, all it wants, is the liberty of appearing in such a situation, man becomes what he ought to be," still quoting Tom Payne. "He sees his species not with the inhuman idea of a natural enemy. You're either with us or against us. No. He sees his species as kindred." And that happened to be my belief, and I'll put it into three words: community in action.

ALLISON: Studs Terkel with his essay for This I Believe. If you would like to tell us and other listeners the story of your belief, go to our Web site,, or call (202) 408-0300. By the way, Studs Terkel, at age 93, is recovering well from his heart surgery; so well, in fact, that his doctors said of him, `They don't make them like that anymore.' For This I Believe, I'm Jay Allison.

MONTAGNE: Next Monday on "All Things Considered," a This I Believe essay from a listener, Kathy Dollen(ph) from the state of Washington.


MONTAGNE: This is NPR News.

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