Terkel is the quintessential oral historian of the past two generations. His books are classics, mainly because he records the stories of the people of the nation.
Hope Dies Last: Keeping the Faith in Troubled Times (The New Press, 2003) is a must read for anyone who wants to understand the power and strength of the human soul.
Here are excerpts from Ed Chambers, executive director of the Industrial Areas Foundation and one of the characters Terkel includes in this collection of living testimony.
I learned not to do things for people, but to get people to do things. . . . People in the community having the power to do it for themselves, that's the iron rule. Never do for others what they can do for themselves. Never, never (pages 228-229).
One of the things you gotta learn in this business is that all organizing is constant reorganizing. . . . These organizations that aren't constantly reorganized become part of the establishment and the status quo (page 230).
That which you possess isn't as great as that which you are about to possess (page 231).
I got my energy for this work from other people, so the self must stay in connection with others, new others, others that have more talent and more vision and more power than you have. That energizes you and keeps you going. Without that, you will ossify. You can call it what you want. You can call it community, you can call it necessity. You've got to be in relationship with real people. I try to stay in touch with everyday, ordinary citizens. I don't need celebs. The big power, you can't have a relationship with. They don't want you, they don't need you (page 213).