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StoryCorps is an independent nonprofit organization whose mission is to provide Americans of all backgrounds and beliefs with the opportunity to record, share, and preserve the stories of our lives.

StoryCorps' David Isay: ‘Every Voice Matters Equally, Every Story Matters Equally'

Harvey Wang

This year marks the 5th anniversary of the National Day of Listening. The day after Thanksgiving is a day to interview loved ones, to preserve and share those histories.

StoryCorps founder David Isay spoke on the importance of recording those family memories and on the focus of this year's National Day of Listening, veterans.

The following is a transcript of my interview with StoryCorps' David Isay:

Erin O’Toole:  Now this year, you’re focusing a lot on veteran’s stories. Why this year?

David Isay: So we are asking people, you know, the National Day of Listening is a holiday to interview someone in your life about their lives. Last year we celebrated teachers, and this year we’re celebrating veterans. We’re asking you if you can find an active duty military, or veteran, or military family – do an interview with them about their lives to honor them.

That’s what StoryCorps is very much about, listening to another person is telling them that they matter and honoring them by saying ‘who are you, what have you learned?’ We're launching -- StoryCorps, just last week on Scott Simon’s show, launched a new initiative. It’s our eighth big national special initiative. This one is called the Military Voices Initiative, it's honoring post 9/11 families, vets, active duty. At this point where one war is done and the other one is winding down, giving families a chance to talk about their experiences, remembering soldiers who were lost in the war, giving wounded warriors a chance to talk to one another. Giving families a chance to talk about what it’s been like for them over the last 11 years.

O’Toole: I have to say, my uncle was a deep-sea diver in the Navy years ago. He had some really amazing stories, and I wish I had thought to record an interview with him before he passed away.

Isay: Well thank you for saying that. Because - I’m sorry he passed away - and this is something that I hear all day, every day which is: ‘my uncle, my father, brother, friend, I wish I had….’ I hope that what people take from this is that you don’t want to say that. On the day after Thanksgiving, take an hour and do this. It’s not difficult and the dividends in the future are fantastic, to have a record of this person’s voice.

To spend an hour, the microphone as you know Erin, gives you license to have conversations you don’t normally get to have. That’s part of the beauty of what this interview experience is. It’s very special. I hope people will take the time to do it.

O’Toole: Me too. You’ve put up a list of really great questions on the StoryCorps website that can really help anyone get a great interview. I was kinda hoping I could maybe try one out on you…

Isay: Oh my God... (laughing)

O’Toole: David Isay, what would you like to be remembered for?

Isay: Oh boy. I have two beautiful, little children at home. One is a year-and-a-half and the other is four-and-a-half and I hope that I am remembered as a great dad and a great husband. And I hope that StoryCorps is around for a while.

What we’re trying to is to build this into a sustaining national institution. And that I hope that what StoryCorps does, so I guess in part I would be remembered for, is give the message that ‘every life matters equally, every voice matters equally, every story matters equally.’ And that we should spend more time listening to each other and less time shouting at each other.

If we can move the needle just a little bit in that direction, wherever I am, I’ll be very happy.

O’Toole: Thank you so much…

Isay: Thanks Erin, and hey, listen, if you get a chance do an interview remembering your uncle with somebody. One of the great uses of StoryCorps is doing memorials of people who’ve passed, so I hope that you’ll do that.


KUNC will be making recording studios available on the National Day of Listening to those who would like to use them to record their stories. You can learn more and sign up for studio space online.

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