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Moyers on Terkel and Leonard
Photo of John Leonard by Jill Krementz, all rights reserved
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November 11, 2008

Photos of John Leonard used on-air and online by Jill Krementz, all rights reserved.

BILL MOYERS: In just the last week, our country has lost two of its most enduring progressives and I have lost two friends.

So much has been said about Studs Terkel, there's no need to embroider any further a remarkable life spent listening to America. But I would like to share with you a scene or two from a documentary studs and I did back in 1984 for CBS.

We traveled by train from Chicago to San Francisco, on the Amtrak Empire Builder that crosses the Northern Great Plains to the Pacific Northwest, then down the west coast from Seattle. Along the way we buttonholed anyone who was willing to talk, and we...Well, we just listened.

Here's a moment I remember when studs started talking with a young mother-to-be:

STUDS TERKEL: All right, that baby. Pretty soon?

PAM: Three months.

STUDS TERKEL: Three months. Okay. What sort of world do you want that baby, boy or girl, to have? What sort of America?

PAM: I want this to still be available. I want this to be accessible, and I want that baby to have the same opportunities that I've had.

BILL MOYERS: Ah, yes, Studs, that would have been something. A few weeks ago Studs sent me two of his many marvelous books — HARD TIMES; AN ORAL HISTORY OF THE GREAT DEPRESSION, and his own memoir, P.S. FURTHER THOUGHTS FROM A LIFETIME OF LISTENING. He taught us all how to listen, and in the best progressive tradition made noteworthy the lives of the folks he called the "non-celebrated - the people who keep the wheels going 'round."Photo by Jill Krementz, all rights reserved

The other friend who just left us was John Leonard, one of america's greatest commentators and critics, a frequent contributor to the CBS SUNDAY MORNING broadcast. He was possessed of an insight that saw the early promise of such writers as Toni Morrison, Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Maxine Hong Kingston.

Like Studs, he had a knack for perceiving what was at the heart of American society and culture. Even though he was at the end of a long fight with lung cancer, one of the last things John did before dying was to get to his polling place Tuesday so he could cast his vote For Barack Obama.

So long, John and Studs. It was good to know you both…

Photos of John Leonard used on-air and online by Jill Krementz, all rights reserved.

References and Reading:
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