The Great Thanksgiving Listen Aims to Bring Families — and the Country — Together Through Listening
In a year when the holidays will look markedly different than usual, we invite students nationwide to use the new remote recording platform StoryCorps Connect to record conversations with a grandparent, teacher, mentor, or another elder.
People everywhere are being advised to reconsider their plans for the holidays as America endures a spike in COVID-19 cases. The Great Thanksgiving Listen gives families and communities a safe opportunity to come together, across generations, to listen to the stories of their loved ones. This year, we are offering StoryCorps Connect, a tool for recording and preserving conversations between loved ones, so people can connect while remaining socially distant.
With permission, each interview becomes part of American history in the StoryCorps archive at the Library of Congress and online at archive.storycorps.org. We’re excited to share that in 2020, we are adding transcripts of participants’ interviews powered by Google Cloud’s state-of-the-art AI technology and advanced machine-learning capabilities. With this innovation, StoryCorps’ collection of stories of our time in America is now accessible to more people via search and in written word.
Each StoryCorps conversation provides an opportunity to ask an elder about who they are, what they’ve learned in life, and how they want to be remembered. This year, it feels more important than ever to make time for these conversations.
Anyone with an interest in storytelling can participate. We actively encourage people of all ages to create your own unique oral history with an elder or loved one in your life, and to transform the holidays into a time of intergenerational sharing.
Bring The Great Listen Into Your Home
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Do you have the courage to listen? Take One Small Step
Every day brings new evidence of how frustrated, angry, and disconnected from each other Americans feel. We are awaiting the outcome of the presidential election with a mix of anticipation and anxiety, but also hope for what comes on the other side of November 3. We can see that there is a way forward for our country if we have the courage to listen.
That’s why I’m proud to announce that we’re scaling up One Small Step, our multi-year national effort to begin to mend the fabric of a country at the breaking point.
Listen to a special broadcast we produced in partnership with NPR about the effort.
By bringing together strangers across political divides to have courageous and meaningful conversations about their lives, One Small Step helps to decrease feelings of contempt, allowing people in America to see one another as human beings.
Conversations recorded for One Small Step are not about politics, but rather about who we are as people: what we care about, and our dreams for the future. And just as with every StoryCorps conversation we’ve recorded since 2003, the interview becomes part of American history at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress (with participant permission).
Our hope is that One Small Step, in these cities and across the country, will remind people in this country of the humanity in all of us, that it’s hard to hate up close.
StoryCorps Founder and President
Announcing Our First Location for One Small Step Cities: Wichita, Kansas
One Small Step is an effort from StoryCorps to connect people who disagree with one another to remind them of their shared humanity. In doing this, we can create spaces for thoughtful reflection and begin to mend the fraying fabric of our nation — one conversation at a time.
Today, we announced that Wichita, Kansas, will be the first of four locations where we anchor our work in 2020 and 2021. Read our announcement here.
Our work on this effort began in the days following the 2016 presidential election, when we as an organization were moved to consider how StoryCorps could respond to the growing culture of division in the United States. Since 2003, more than half a million people have taken the step of sitting down with a loved one to record a conversation about their lives. We wondered: Would people take one small step towards learning about the life and beliefs of someone who was a stranger and held contrasting political beliefs? When taken to scale, could we start to undo the idea of “us” versus “them”?
We have been piloting this concept, which we called One Small Step, since 2018. More than 800 people across 40 U.S. cities have taken part in the effort, affirming that our method — two people in a safe and respectful conversation facilitated by StoryCorps — can increase our hope and decrease feelings of contempt for people who are different than us.
We are now expanding this effort to heal and humanize each other in the challenging months and years ahead. In 2020, One Small Step will be staged in four politically divided cities, communities that our research indicates have a good probability of adopting the ethos and techniques of StoryCorps’ listening across divides. This includes Wichita, Kansas and three more locations to be announced this month.
While we are working locally in these cities, One Small Step is a nationwide project created by StoryCorps to help people get past the labels of “Republican” and “Democrat”, “liberal” and “conservative” to find our common humanity and remind Americans of the shared values that unite us.
Sign up for our email list to learn more about interview opportunities in other locations across the country.
One Small Step is made possible by the generous support of the Fetzer Institute, Kate Capshaw and Steven Spielberg’s The Wunderkinder Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and the Charles Koch Institute. StoryCorps thanks these donors for their commitment to this project and to bridging divides in America.
StoryCorps’ Response to COVID-19
UPDATED August 17, 2020
This post is being updated continuously.
All Appointments will be virtual in 2020
Due to continued public health concerns with COVID-19 in the locations where our programs take place, StoryCorps has suspended in-person recording operations (recordings with the public) at all of our locations through the end of 2020.
This impacts people with appointments in:
- StoryBooths: Atlanta and Chicago
- Mobile Tour: Las Vegas, NV; Amarillo, TX; and Marfa, TX
- Military Voices Initiative (MVI) Tour: Green Bay, WI and La Crosse, WI.
Appointments will be conducted using StoryCorps Connect, with a facilitator present on the line. To support our participants, we provide additional technical assistance to assure the interview experience is seamless. Interviews recorded virtually are preserved at the Library of Congress.
If you would like to record your story remotely, please reserve your virtual appointment by visiting the links here.
If you have further questions, please feel free to reach out to StoryCorps Public Support at [email protected]
Our call center is open 24/7 at 1-800-850-4406.
In Memoriam: Theresa Burroughs, Civil Rights Leader & StoryCorps Participant
We were sad to learn that Theresa Burroughs, a StoryCorps participant and champion for the right to vote, died at the age of 89 in her hometown of Greensboro, Alabama.
We were fortunate that Theresa came to StoryCorps with her daughter, Toni Love, to share her story of coming of age during the Jim Crow era. Theresa joined with other civil rights demonstrators who would appear at Alabama’s Hale County Courthouse on the first and third Monday of every month to pursue their right to vote.
Theresa describes the obstacles the board of registrars put in their place in “A More Perfect Union,” the animation we created of her story. Watch the animation here.
Theresa later founded the Safe House Black History Museum in Greensboro to document the local struggle for equality. You can watch Theresa speak to the production team of “A More Perfect Union” at the museum in the behind-the-scenes video below.
After finally gaining her right to vote, Theresa said it was a joy to finally vote, but that “it shouldn’t have been this hard.” We honor the hard work Theresa did to expand the right to vote in her community and thus strengthen our democracy, and we hope to live by her example so that it doesn’t have to be so hard for future generations.
— Rachel Hartman, Co-Executive Producer, Animation
#StonewallOutLoud: Help Record the Stories of a Generation of LGBTQ People
Today we’ve announced Stonewall OutLoud, a participatory initiative to gather the stories of LGBTQ elders before they are lost to history.
[Read commentary in The Advocate from Dave Isay, founder of StoryCorps, and more about his personal connection to Stonewall.]
In June 1969, a series of protests and clashes with law enforcement broke out in and around New York City’s Stonewall Inn, after a violent police-raid on the gay club sparked retaliation among the bar’s patrons and neighborhood residents. The events served as a catalyst to the national LGBTQ rights movement. This June, in honor of the 50th anniversary of what became known as the Stonewall Riots, StoryCorps will ask people across the country to use the free StoryCorps mobile App to record the stories of people within the LGBTQ community who were born before the events of Stonewall. Each of these interviews will become a permanent part of American history at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress.
Stonewall OutLoud will reach deep into LGBTQ communities across the country to ensure that as wide a collection of voices as possible are recorded and preserved. With special emphasis given to rural communities, communities of color, and transgender elders, the initiative seeks to connect older and younger generations through the powerful StoryCorps interview experience, preserve these stories for the future, and share the voices of the LGBTQ community with a broad general audience through educational and broadcast partnerships. Individuals and organizations can pledge to take part at storycorps.org/outloud
We’re honored to work with partners on this project, including SAGE, the National LGBTQ Task Force, GRIOT Circle, and GLSEN, with other partners.
> Read the complete announcement here.
> Pledge to record here.
How We Match Participants for One Small Step: A Behind-the-Scenes Look
Over the last 15 years, StoryCorps has welcomed people who know each other to visit one of our StoryBooths (or to use our app) to record a conversation that honors their relationship and shared history.
Through our newest initiative, One Small Step, we are doing something different. We are asking strangers with different political views to record a StoryCorps interview with each other. Why? To break down boundaries created by politics and remember our shared humanity.
Since we launched the project in 2018, one of the most common questions we are asked is how we match people for conversations. Roselyn Almonte, who manages the matching process, as well as our work with community partners for One Small Step, shared her insights into this process. Roselyn is a trained facilitator, having participated in almost 200 interviews since she joined StoryCorps in 2016.
How do you match people for a One Small Step interview?
We ask everyone who is interested in recording a One Small Step interview to complete an online questionnaire. This gives us information about who they are, why they want to participate, and what they hope to gain from this experience. Once people have completed our questionnaire, I take the time to review all responses.
What are you looking for when matching two people together for a conversation?
Whether you have completely opposite beliefs or just a few differences in political viewpoints, here are a couple of key things I consider:
- We are looking for two people who want to have a respectful conversation. It is important that people come into this conversation not wanting to debate, argue, yell, or tear someone else down. One of StoryCorps guiding principles is to do no harm to anyone participating in a conversation. We have created an interview structure that promotes respect and kindness, and we are looking for people who want that. It is important to StoryCorps to create a space free of harm to anyone involved.
- We are looking for two people who have similar goals for why they want to participate in these conversations. For example, both individuals should express wanting to “learn and expand” their own worldview or wanting to take the time to “listen to a set of beliefs very different” from their own.
- We are looking for people who prioritize listening. More than anything, One Small Step is a practice in listening. StoryCorps is committed to creating a culture of deep and intentional listening. One Small Step deepens that practice by teaching us ways to listen to different viewpoints and to respectfully hear things with which you may disagree. This is not an easy task! We are looking for people who are open-minded and willing to really listen to someone else.
What is one question that is particularly effective for getting people to open up and share?
This tip comes from Camila Kerwin, StoryCorps producer and former facilitator. Camila facilitated many One Small Step conversations in 2018, when we first tested the project. Her favorite question to ask is, “What is your earliest awareness of politics?” Camila says: “There’s something about talking about your memories as a kid that’s disarming, even if it’s a story that indicates you have different views from the other person.” It’s a productive place to start a conversation with someone who is new.
People in America are increasingly siloed in their contact with others. Another question we commonly hear: ‘ Where can I meet a stranger?’ How can people do that?
Take a moment to fill out a screening questionnaire, if we come to your city or surrounding area, you might be invited to participate. But if we are not coming to your area, we suggest starting where you are! Are there people in your workplace, school, or faith-community you want to have a conversation with? Explain the project to them and record a conversation on the StoryCorps App, using the keyword #OneSmallStep.
- Review our tips for recording and follow the suggested questions supplied by the App.
- Invite others to record. We’re building a listening movement; everyone is invited to take part in this national effort.
Learn more and see a complete list of locations where you can record.
More Ways to Take One Small Step
We’re excited to announce today the launch of One Small Step Communities, an expansion of our new initiative to foster conversations across political divides.
With support from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, StoryCorps will provide training and production assistance to six local public radio stations across the United States as part of our One Small Step initiative to facilitate and broadcast conversations with Americans of opposing viewpoints.
The stations participating in One Small Step Communities are: KCUR – Kansas City; Texas Public Radio – San Antonio; Utah Public Radio – Logan; Arizona Public Media – Tucson; WUSF – Tampa; and WBHM – Birmingham.
Two members of each participating station came to our offices in Brooklyn today to take part in training led by StoryCorps staff. The stations will also receive program support and a customized set of professional recording equipment.
Stations will record conversations with community residents of differing political persuasions and selected interviews will be shared across each station’s media platforms.
Chuck Holmes, Executive Director of WBHM, says, “Ours is a city of dichotomies: Black and white. Rich and poor. Young and old. Steelmaking and tech start-ups. Native Southerners and newcomers from the North. One Small Step gives us a unique means and framework for continuing the work we’ve done for years to engage both sides of the partisan divide to demonstrate the fairness of our journalism and its civic purpose.”
One Small Step entails facilitating and recording conversations between two people — specifically to counteract intensifying political divides, by enabling those who disagree to listen to each other with respect. Rather than spark additional political debates, One Small Step encourages answers to questions like, “Was there a moment, event, or person in your life that shaped your political views?” and “What scares you most when you think about the future?”
In addition, NPR will provide a national platform for sharing stories recorded in these communities in 2019. Stay tuned for more on how to listen and take part.
One Small Step is supported by a broad coalition of government and philanthropic support. Major supporters include The Rockefeller Foundation, the Fetzer Institute, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the Einhorn Family Charitable Trust, Charles Koch Foundation, and the Righteous Persons Foundation. Additional support provided by Present Progressive Fund at Schwab Charitable.
View the media announcement here.
You can also sign up to receive occasional emails about One Small Step.
Veterans Day #GoogleDoodle
This Veterans Day, we’re partnering with Google and YouTube to share the voices of our country’s veterans and to make a commitment to preserving more #VeteransVoices so we can honor their service. The stories that veterans tell are powerful reflections of the experiences they carry, and it’s important they not be forgotten.
Today, you can discover five extraordinary real stories told in an interactive and animated Google Doodle. These all-new animations feature accounts from service members from all five branches of the military, and touch on a spectrum of veteran experiences and emotions such as friendship, loss, hardship, hope, and love. All five of these interviews were recorded by StoryCorps. We are so grateful to the participants who shared their stories with us.
We also thank our partners at Google and YouTube for reminding the country that listening to each other’s stories can promote healing and helps create a more compassionate world. A more timely reminder of our shared humanity is hard to imagine.
There is a lot to explore and we invite you to experience it all:
View the Google Doodle.
Listen to the five original audio stories here on our website.
Go behind the scenes on this project by visiting the Official Google Doodle Blog.
Visit our dedicated #VeteransVoices page for more StoryCorps stories recorded through our Military Voices Initiative and to learn how you can get involved.
Use your Smartphone to Record with a Veteran
Once you’ve listened to #VeteransVoices, we want you to make time to interview a veteran in your life. Anyone with a smartphone can record an interview with the StoryCorps App. The app is available on iOS, Android devices and for Kindle.
To help get you started, we’re providing resources to support educators, students, or anyone else who wants to take part in recording:
Over the past several years, StoryCorps has recorded thousands of intimate interviews with post-9/11 veterans, service members, and military families to preserve their voices for posterity and share their stories with the nation. In doing so we honor their service and amplify their experiences. Join us in this effort.