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StoryCorps Hosts National Day Of Listening


On Fridays, Morning Edition listeners take a short break from the day's news to hear a snippet of an extraordinary personal story. Some interviews warming the heart, some are deeply sad and some are just plain funny. These tales from Storycorp have become a weekly example of how exceptional so many of our life stories really are. In that spirit, Storycorp is once again asking people to preserve their family stories by taking part in a National Day of Listening, the day after Thanksgiving.

On Fridays, Morning Edition listeners take a short break from the day's news to hear just a snippet of an extraordinary personal story. Some are heart warming, some deeply sad and some are just plain funny. These tales from StoryCorps have become a weekly example of how exceptional so many of our life stories really are. In that spirit, Storycorp is once again asking people to preserve their family stories by taking part in a National Day of Listening, the day after Thanksgiving.

We'll hear a few StoryCorps classics and find out how to participate in the National Days of Listening by interviewing a friend or family member.


Dave Isay, founder and president of StoryCorps

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This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Every Friday morning edition listeners get a short break from the day's news and get to listen in on an extraordinary personal story. It can be a mother talking to her son about the first time she learned he was gay. Or an older man telling us a harrowing tale from his childhood about narrowly escaping death after playing on train tracks. Of these tales from StoryCorps have become a weekly example of how exceptional so many of our life stories really are. In that spirit, StoryCorps is once again asking people to preserve their family stories by taking part in a national day of listening, and it's the day right after Thanksgiving. Here to tell us more about the day of listening is my guest, Dave Isay, is founder and president of store core. And Dave, welcome to These Days

DAVE ISAY: Thanks for such a lovely introduction.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Oh, thank you. And tell us, is it hard to participate in this national day of listening? What do we need to be able to do.

DAVE ISAY: It is so unbelievably easy. And as you said, this was an out growth of StoryCorps, and folks who listen to morning edition, may know, that we've done tens of thousands of interview across the country, and these biographies travel around in other venues, and the idea with the national day of listening is for folks to do store core style interviews themselves. As sort of the least expensive but meaningful gift in this [CHECK AUDIO] coming out of the midterm elections, a project that speaks to the importance of listening as opposed to shouting at each other, is particularly poignant and important, I think. We have a website, national day of And you can find there a guide for how to do these interviews of course it's very very far simple, the guise is brief. And we have something called a question generator there. Which gives you kind of the 20 most popular store core questions that have been asked in the store core booths, and hundreds of other questions by topic. And you just kind of check off which questions you want, and you can reorder them and prints them out. But it's really, really very easy to do these interviews.


DAVE ISAY: Sometimes I do hear from people a little bit of fear about the interviews.


DAVE ISAY: But what I hear more frequently as I'm traveling around the country talking about StoryCorps is people saying, you know, I wish I interviewed my grandmother, my brother, my mother, but I waited too long. And that's something you don't want to do. If you do these interviews, two things I promise is, one is you're gonna learn something you didn't know before. Because as you know, the microphone gives you the license to have these kinds of conversations, the StoryCorps model is all about having these conversations you don't usually have, and the other thing is you won't regret it.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: How should you approach a family member about telling his or her story?

DAVE ISAY: Well, it's easy, I think -- you know what we found with StoryCorps is that everybody wants to participate. Once in a while, you'll find somebody who refuses and you just don't do that. All you have to do is ask. I think what doing an interview tells people is that they matter and they won't be forgotten. And oftentimes they're very emotional experiences for people, and I think it's -- most people do want to do this sort of thing. And you know, it's really a chance to turn off your black berry, turn off your computer, all you need is a recording device is look someone in the eyes and tell them how much they mean to you just by listening to them.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Now, just to give our audience a sort of a push in the right direction, we want to pray one of the best remembered stories aired on StoryCorps, it was from husband and wife Danny and Annie perace, and hear they remember their first date in an interview recorded in 2004.

[[[Audio Recording Played]]].

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Now, I gotta tell you, Dave, as a local host of morning edition for many years, I found it very hard coming out of many poignant StoryCorps interviews, because I couldn't talk. I had a lump in my throat. I couldn't say anything. Do you get any complaints about that from people driving in their cars in tears or something like that.

DAVE ISAY: You know, I hear -- the strange thing is I hear that stantly. People always talk about crying when they talk about StoryCorps stories, and the strange thing about it, is that most StoryCorps stories aren't sad. And I think it speaks to the power of radio, which you know so well. You know, it's the intimacy of the voice. I think the thing about StoryCorps is you're hearing something authentic, you're hearing people knowing real in this day and time when we're surrounded by so much phoniness. This is not about 15 minutes of fame on a reality TV program, and you're also hearing, you know, you're hearing people talk about things that matter in their matters and people that matter. And you're hearing about humanity at its best. [CHECK AUDIO] so people, there is a lot of crying over StoryCorps, but I think it's a good kind of crying.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Well, also to speak to your point about their not being sad, we have a story cory interview recorded here in San Diego. Musician Ramon chunky Sanchez remembers how teachers changed the names of Mexican American students in the 1950s.

[[[[Audio Recording Played]]]]

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: So these interviews don't always have to be about deep, emotional incidents. They can be about just stories that, in your family, on this national day of listening, that you really want to keep in the first person. You really want to preserve.

DAVE ISAY: Yeah, it's the stories and the voice. And you know, it's as much about listening, you know, it really is. It's -- what we find happened in these interviews is that people, when they have these conversations, kind of melt into each other's eyes, and forget the microphone's there, and it becomes a really important moment. One thing that happens in these interviews that's really cool, and folks might want to try, is they do their national day of interviews, is at the end of interviews, oftentimes issue the people who are asking the questions, take just a couple minutes and tell the tables, and tell the person just a couple minutes to tell how much they mean to them. I know your mom or grandma or whoever it is, knows how much you love them, but it's a really important thing just once in a while to really say that. So again, Friday is most famous for being black Friday, a day of shopping, and we're trying to just have there be something else that happens on black Friday as well.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Now, these stories that you record on the national day of listening don't go into the national archives like the official StoryCorps interviews, so how have you heard that people are preserving their own family interviews? What are they doing with these recordings.

DAVE ISAY: Well, that's the great thing about technology. Some people refer to StoryCorps as kind of an antitwitter. And I think it's -- StoryCorps is so important because it is about having real, face-to-face human conversation. Which, you know, reminds us of, you know, who we are and how lucky we are to be alive and grounds you in the real world. But technology also makes it possible to preserve these things. One of the things you can do, on our site, the national day of listening site, we have what's called a national day of listening. And all that information goes to the Library of Congress. We don't at this point accept the interviews themselves. But it's so easy for people now, you know, if you get together with eight neighbors go to a local electronic store for [CHECK AUDIO] then you hook if right into your computer. Or whatever your audio program is, and you burn CDs. Pas them out as holiday gifts of there's no reason when you do these recordings that they won't last for a long long long long long time.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I guess people can post them on Facebook and --

DAVE ISAY: Absolutely.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And family blogs and things like that.

DAVE ISAY: That's right. That's right.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Tell us one more time, Dave, before we have to let you go, about this initial day of listening, when is it and how can people find out hoar about it.

DAVE ISAY: The national day of listening is November 26th, the day after Thanksgiving. Upon and that is the day to -- [CHECK AUDIO] just do it. And the instructions for how to do it can be found on the national day of listening website, national day of, and you can hear hundreds of StoryCorps stories, and hear more about our story -- on our Facebook page, or at And as far as doing the interviews, spread the word. [CHECK AUDIO] public broad casting in general, you know, it's about civility, it's about listening to each other. It's about recognizing the poetry and grace and beauty and power in the stories we find all around us when we take the time to listen.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Dave, thank you for this, and for bringing us all these wonderful stories.

DAVE ISAY: Thanks Maureen, and wonderful to talk to you.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Dave I say is founder and president of StoryCorps. And that's go out on another StoryCorps memory. This is one from Jose Fernandez and his wife, Teracita, it's about his first Thanksgiving here in the U.S.

[[[Audio Recording Played]]]

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: You've been listening to These Days on KPBS.

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