Dave Isay: Everyone around you has a story the world needs to hear
Dave Isay - Story collector
Over thousands of archived and broadcast interviews, StoryCorps founder Dave Isay -- winner of the 2015 TED Prize -- has created an unprecedented document of the dreams and fears that touch us all. Full bio
or even a stranger
important moments in that person's life,
I was lucky enough to find my calling
who I was very, very close to, was gay.
of our strained conversations,
and Latino drag queens
at a gay bar in Manhattan
the modern gay rights movement.
and it piqued my interest.
recorder and find out more.
named Michael Shirker,
of the people we could find
the Stonewall Inn that night.
gave me the license
never would have gone
otherwise ever have spoken to.
fierce and courageous human beings
the story of Stonewall
and it changed my life.
I made many more radio documentaries,
who are rarely heard from in the media.
of being interviewed
that their stories didn't matter.
people's back straighten
into the microphone.
about the last flophouse hotels
cheap hotels for decades.
the size of prison cells
from one room into the next.
with the photographer Harvey Wang.
with an early version of the book
the long, narrow hallway
the clarion call for StoryCorps,
a dozen years ago.
to create a work of art or entertainment
by a whole lot of people,
was the purpose of this work,
many, many people the chance
can come to honor someone else
by a facilitator who brings you inside.
and you listen and you talk.
if this was to be our last conversation,
and say to this person
you walk away with a copy of the interview
to the American Folklife Center
can someday get to know your grandfather
in one of the busiest places in the world
incredibly intimate conversation
but from the very beginning, it did.
with incredible respect,
at that original Grand Central Booth.
interviewing his mother, Sarah.
are incredibly smart
From a scale of one to 10,
different without animals?
an eight without animals,
would be different without them?
like cockroaches and snakes.
as long as they're not venomous
the insect we love to hate.
you couldn't cope with having a child?
you had really bad colic,
SL: It's when you get this stomach ache
for, like, four hours.
but Amy's was more high-pitched.
seems to like Amy more,
why you think that people like Amy more,
of your Asperger's syndrome,
it's more difficult,
to get to know you love you so much.
SL: Yeah --
but less quantity? (Laughter)
the quality, but I think --
loved Claudia, then she hated Claudia,
is that you have a few very good friends,
you wanted when I was born?
my expectations, sweetie,
of what your child's going to be like,
so much as a parent, because you think --
who made you a parent.
That's a good point. (Laughter)
in the parenting books,
outside of the box with you,
as a parent and as a person,
but you are so incredibly special to me
ran on public radio,
together in a book,
they would read the letters together.
that two of my heroes
who is now an honors student in college.
crying when they hear StoryCorps stories,
something authentic and pure
when sometimes it's hard to tell
courage, decency and dignity,
like you're walking on holy ground.
in Grand Central worked,
in all 50 states
and towns across America
of human voices ever gathered.
hundreds of facilitators
through the experience.
gathering the wisdom of humanity.
that the most important thing
during these interviews
of StoryCorps, you could argue
of a selection bias happening,
with every kind of person
across the political spectrum --
are actually onto something.
from these interviews.
and the wisdom and the grace
of people all around us
named Danny Perasa
to talk about his love for her.
the thing of it is,
"I love you" to you.
I say it to remind you
it's coming from me.
from a busted old radio,
the radio around the house.
on the kitchen table,
to me every morning.
that could possibly be wrong
is extremely rainy.
I love you. I love you.
no matter what happens at work,
in the rest of the day,
that you can hug somebody
and saying, "Get your hands off me."
a color television set.
to black and white.
and one single snaggletooth,
more romance in his little pinky
leading men put together.
and I've learned about strength.
and Mary Johnson.
he murdered Mary's only son,
who this person was
they became friends,
from the penitentiary,
of a conversation they had
is no longer here.
and now you're going to college.
to see you graduate.
to experience that with you.
say those things and to be
in which you are is my motivation.
that I stay on the right path.
despite how much pain I caused you,
to be able to share our story together,
looking at each other right now.
so I admire that you can do this.
MJ: I love you too, son.
of the courage and goodness of people,
truly does bend towards justice.
who was born Arthur Martinez
with her daughter Lesley
into the woman she was always meant to be.
difficult things for me was
I wouldn't be allowed
out of the water,
in my relationship with my granddaughters,
over whether I'm he or she.
to talk about it.
but that, to me, is a miracle.
You don't have to tiptoe.
and that's something I've always
that you're loved.
and I really am at peace with who I am.
and I try to live that way every day.
a secret about StoryCorps.
to have these conversations.
will be heard long after they're gone.
on recording interviews
"The Four Things That Matter Most"
to the most important people in your life
we can say to one another,
in a StoryCorps booth.
with someone you care about --
and Chris a few months ago
I was completely floored.
with a very brief wish for humanity,
I wrote my 50 words,
Chris called and said, "Go for it."
can easily record a meaningful interview
which will then be archived for history.
where everyone in the world
could have imagined 11 years ago
is already underway.
has been working furiously
StoryCorps out of our booths
by anyone, anywhere, anytime.
been two people and a facilitator
which is preserved forever,
of the StoryCorps app.
that walks you through
to our archive at the Library of Congress.
how we can use it
thousands of StoryCorps interviews a year,
tens of thousands
a national homework assignment
studying U.S. history across the country
with an elder over Thanksgiving,
and experiences are captured.
sides of a conflict somewhere in the world
about that conflict
begin to build bonds of trust;
a tradition all over the world
with a StoryCorps interview
or homeless shelters or even prisons
least heard in our society
what they've learned in life,
a StoryCorps interview with my dad
and became a well-known gay activist.
of us at that interview.
until a couple of years ago,
to be in perfect health
40 hours a week,
a few days later.
for the first time at three in the morning
they were going to get to know this person
would be through that session.
any more deeply than I did,
the importance of making these recordings.
my father or my grandmother or my brother,
is fleeting and inconsequential,
enduring and important.
we are as human beings.
this wish come true.
or even a stranger.
of the wisdom of humanity,
and shout a little less.
what's really important.
that simple truth
About the speaker:Dave Isay - Story collector
Over thousands of archived and broadcast interviews, StoryCorps founder Dave Isay -- winner of the 2015 TED Prize -- has created an unprecedented document of the dreams and fears that touch us all.
Why you should listen
From the first interview he recorded, 2015 TED Prize winner and MacArthur Fellow Dave Isay knew he’d found his calling: preserving the stories of everyday Americans. Since then, Isay has amassed hundreds of thousands of recordings, most of previously unheard or ignored voices, all speaking in their own words. The archives of StoryCorps -- which Isay founded in 2003 -- are included at the Library of Congress’ American Folklife Center, and now constitute the largest single collection of recorded voices in history.
StoryCorps invites friends, loved ones and strangers to conduct 40-minute interviews at intimate recording booths in Atlanta, Chicago, San Francisco, and (until 2011) New York, as well as in mobile studios nationwide. Offering moving and surprising glimpses into the hearts of often marginalized and forgotten subjects, the interviews are a familiar feature of NPR’s Morning Edition and Storycorps.org.
At TED2015, Isay shared an audacious wish for StoryCorps: to open up the format from its signature booths with a StoryCorps app that allows anyone to add to this "digital archive of the collective wisdom of humanity." The vision: to broaden this idea, and begin to take it global.
Dave Isay | Speaker | TED.com