Goodbye Studs

6 11 2008


Studs Terkel

Studs Terkel

Last Friday Pulitzer-prize winning oral historian Studs Terkel passed on at the age of 96. I discovered Studs while watching the April 4, 2006 episode of The Daily Show where he appeared to promote his newest book. So drawn was I to his feisty and spirited discussion with Jon Stewart that I looked him up. 


I was fascinated by his knack for finding the extraordinary in the ordinary no matter whether he was interviewing the waitress in the local diner or an acclaimed celebrity personality. Elizabeth Gilbert in her book Eat, Pray, Love, speaks about spirituality and and the Buddhist notion that God exists in you AS you. Studs, in his own endearing style, had a way of connecting with the deity in the every day person, exposing the goodness, honoring it, and celebrating it.

Reading his oral histories, or in my case listening to the audiobook edition, is an exercise in optimism and hope that bolsters even the most depressed mood. Studs’ average “Joes” (yes, Joe the Plumber, Bob the Builder, Jane the Hair Stylist, etc) each contribute something good or accomplish an honorable goal, somewhere along the way despite their own hardships or failings. I remember finishing his books and smiling with renewed faith that life’s struggles, though they may challenge us, are not in vain, and that each of us has something constructive and positive to give.

You can read more about Studs in the NY Times obituary and this article “He Gave Voice to Many, Among Them Himself” written as a tribute to him a few days after his death. 

And you can see the video of the appearance on The Daily Show that led down this path of discovery.

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