Dave Isay shares his TED Prize wish: to take StoryCorps global with an app anyone can use

Check out the next, exciting steps for StoryCorps, one of the inspirations for the Just Sharing Fellowship. We certainly plan to participate!

TED Blog

TED Prize winner Dave Isay speaks at TED2015 - Truth and Dare, Session 5. Photo: Bret Hartman/TED TED Prize winner Dave Isay speaks at TED2015 – Truth and Dare, Session 5. Photo: Bret Hartman/TED

“Tonight, I’m going to make the case that inviting a loved one, a friend or a stranger to record a meaningful interview might just turn out to be one of the most important moments in that person’s life — and in yours,” says Dave Isay of StoryCorps, stepping to the TED stage to accept the 2015 TED Prize in Session 5 of TED2015.

Isay begins his talk by telling his personal story. At 22, he says, he fell into radio journalism. His newfound calling helped him find a connection with his dad, who he — very unexpectedly — had just found out was gay. After his dad told him about the Stonewall Riots, Isay set out to interview everyone who had been in The Stonewall Inn in Manhattan in 1969, on the night credited with sparking the gay rights movement.

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Lifeguarding Dreams

by Rozana, 20 from Bethlehem

I will go back in time five years ago, when I took my identity card and was open up to this world. My dream at that age was to become a great swimmer and have my lifeguard license. Being a life guard is not easy we had to do hard exercise and take a test. My coach was tough and strict and we had to practice exercises that were so hard for me since I was one of the weakest in the team. Being one of the weakest put me down sometimes, it gave me a feeling that I should give up and that I do not have to exhaust myself in something that I would not manage to achieve. Therefore, I stopped going to exercise and even if I went, I would not practice as I am supposed to. Then, the test day had come. I had to do it because I have already paid for its fees.  Experts came to judge our performance and decide whether be lifeguards or not. However, my performance was bad and of course, I failed. This moment was one of the most desperate moments in my life because I did not achieve something I had been dreaming of since childhood. Seeing others celebrating their success while losing my dream made my eyes tear up. No, I did not want to cry because I am jealous of them but because I made a mistake. My coach came and looked into my eyes and said, “I know you want it and that you can do it but sometimes you have to lose!” I looked away and did not reply. Then, he held my hand and said, “Do you want to have a second chance?” I replied with a happy yes! He walked out of the room and went to talk to the experts to ask them for a second chance. Fortunately, they accepted and my second chance was going to be one month later.

So, there I was with a second chance and a month where I would be doing nothing but swimming and swimming and swimming. I worked hard to make my dream come true. Then, that month was over and the moment had come. It was the time of my second chance. My family, my best friend and my coach were all there to support me. They were cheering and screaming very loudly, which gave me energy and pushed me forward to do it and not let them down. So, with every beat I did in the pool and with every move I made forward, I did it. I made that thing which was impossible for me become possible. Finally, Rozana became a lifeguard.

“Reach Higher and Go Farther”

by Bethany, 23 from Pennsylvania

I remember how it felt the first two years of college at St Francis University. It was a small, catholic university that was easy to grow into right out of high school. The classes were small, the clubs were small, everyone knew each other, and it always felt like there was someone there for you if you needed it. I joined every club I could – I jumped on as a leader for weekend Catholic Confirmation retreats, as a student leader in the spring break Dominican Republic trip group, interviewed to be a Student Ambassador, started my own Imagine No Malaria chapter, and loved every second of it. I remember my freshman year as a time of transformation, and my sophomore year as a time of accomplishment and self-discovery. By February of that year, I realized I wanted to “reach higher and go farther,” as the St Francis motto was, but the career I realized I wanted to go into, Public Relations, wasn’t a course offering at St Francis. Sadly, I realized I had to transfer schools. I remember driving away from campus on my last day that year and feeling like even though I was chasing my future, I was leaving my heart behind.

Arriving at West Virginia University (WVU) for my junior year, I realized quickly I was in for a big change. The school was ten times as large, everyone my age already formed their group of friends, and mine were so far away. On top of that, I felt like I was clinging to the identity I had created for myself at St. Francis, and I was finding it difficult to let go create a new identity at WVU. There were many times when I thought I made the wrong decision, that even though I wouldn’t be studying what I wanted, maybe I should have stayed…even just to be comfortable. As it turns out, I didn’t have to wait very long to form a new identity. By my second year at WVU, I was jumping into every opportunity there as well.

Fast forward to the October after I graduated from WVU, October 2013. I was a full-time digital marketer and was visiting St Francis for a monthly worship service that I used to attend regularly. Something happened during that worship service that made me think about my career…it wasn’t what I wanted at all. I realized I had been volunteering and working toward causes and with nonprofit organizations my whole life, so why didn’t I pick that for a career? By January 2014 I had quit my marketing job, and by April 2014 I had a Community Outreach Specialist job with a nonprofit organization in Pittsburgh. Almost a year later, I still feel like this job is a dream come true. I found myself in different ways in college and in life, but I never could find myself as profoundly as I did at St Francis.

Aunt for the First Time

The happiest moment of my life was when I became an aunt.

My mom woke me up in the morning.

“Wake up, guys! Your sister gave birth!”

I woke up fast, put on my clothes and we went quickly to the hospital. When I finally reached, I saw my nephew, Hanna. He is the cutest ever. I held him tightly and gave him the biggest kiss ever. I really can’t explain the way I felt that day. It was awesome.

Still, he is the reason of my smile. Everyone who sees him says that he looks like me and this makes me proud.

Now, he is nine months old. What I love the most about him is that the first thing he said when he started to talk was “Nana”, which means Jiana. Goodness, it melted my heart. I see in this baby boy a very successful man, a loving and friendly person and of course, an incredibly cute person because he looks like me.

Seeing him growing up with no danger around him and with a perfect family makes my life happier. Seeing him sticks a smile on my face. All I want is to know that he is safe and happy. I give him much attention and spoil him. Every time I play with him I turn into a baby. It makes me feel special; he changes my whole mood.

My happiness will be completed when I see him a big, successful man with his wife and children.

God bless you my sweet Hanna. I love you so so much!

International Women’s Day

The participants of the Just Sharing Fellowship in Bethlehem celebrated International Women’s Day on Thursday, March 5th. We talked about the history of International Women’s Day, gender inequality around the world, and what it means to be a women in Palestine. We shared our visions for gender equality in 2015 and each participant wrote their hopes of justice on a sign along with #Makeithappen, the official theme of International Women’s Day 2015.

Look at the photos and visions of gender equality below and let us all work towards gender justice in 2015!Help Each Other Freedom Independence and Access to Water Peace #RighttoMovement
#Makeithappen

Dancing

by Devan, 18 from Pennsylvania

I’m a dancer. I danced for fifteen years. Eleven of those years I was on a competitive team. My first year on the competitive team, I was absolutely terrified. I was much younger than the other girls on the team. I was seven and the next youngest was twelve. I did not have anything in common with any of the girls. I was just starting school, while they had already been at it for a while. In the beginning I wanted to quit, but my mom was always telling me to not give up the opportunity. So I stayed in the dance class, and then it came time for the competitions. We went to the first competition and we won, first place. Just when we were getting ready to leave a judge came up to me and my dance teacher. She couldn’t believe I was seven and dancing with high school students. This ended up being a common reaction among judges at other competitions. I did not know the skills I had, and I went on to have another ten great years of dance and competitions.

I had the skill to still go on after high school, I just didn’t have the body. Dance is a beautiful art and sport, but it destroys pieces of you. I didn’t go on with dance because in the end it was a constant physical burden. I had torn the cartilage off my breast bone and in my rib conjunction, fractured my wrist several times, and dislocated knees and ankles. But dance will always be in a large part of my heart. I would do it all again if I had the chance.

My Life with the Enemy

Anonymous, 20 from Bethlehem

Being on this long journey that we call life, we go through many experiences, and there is this one experience, a story by itself, that becomes part of who we are—part of our identity. Growing up, I had an experience that is and will always be part of who I am. I am now twenty-one and still talk about it as if it happened yesterday because I consider it to be an important portrayal of my life as a Palestinian and the lives of every other Palestinians living under occupation. This story is only one of many other stories, which all together reflect the long history of Palestine—a long history of oppression. It is the story of when my house was occupied twice back in 2002.

I remember it was sunset, my mother was cleaning the house and I was playing, when suddenly we heard a hard knock on the door with people shouting “eftakh Bab, eftakh Bab” (Open the door). We opened and it was a group of Israeli soldiers with a tank and armored vehicles coming to take over our house. They came in yelling at us and I got really scared as any eight year old innocent girl would do seeing the enemy this close for the first time in her childhood. They were planning on putting the whole family my two aunts, my uncle with his two sons, and me with my two brothers, my sister, and my parents in my room with no bathroom, no water, no food to eat and not enough space for eleven people to sleep. But my grandmother, god rest her soul, saved the day. My aunt told the soldiers that my grandmother was sick and that we can’t leave her in the house by herself, so they decided to lock us all in my aunt’s two-room house.

Those days were the hardest and longest days of my childhood. Every day was a dreadful experience carried on with tension, terror, and uncertainty. We were three families living in one small house, all our belongings were next door but unreachable and sleeping on the floor was our only choice because all our beds became part of the military defenses and we were only left with my aunts’ three beds. We were out of food and water and the Red Cross was our only source of supplies. I remember them bringing us food and water and putting them in a big basket that we would pull up the balcony. The Israelis damaged everything starting from inside the house to our land outside. They hung blankets on windows to prevent anyone from seeing them, leaving holes in the walls.  They even pulled out grape vines to make space for the tank to be put into position, and much more than you can imagine.

My two brothers, two cousins and I were in a constant need to play and to go out, but the soldiers mercilessly kept us locked in, which generated anxiety and nervousness inside each one of us all the time. Day and night the shooting was nonstop. We could hear the Palestinians shooting at the Israelis and the Israelis shooting at the Palestinians, and all that put fear inside of us. In addition to all these events, there was one tragic incident that touched us all deeply and lived inside us day by day. A young mother whose name was Rania was going to buy some milk for her children when a tank that was positioned in front of our house spotted her and shot her to death.

The soldiers then left and we thought the nightmare was over. But we thought wrong. There was another visit. The funny thing is that we were ahead of the game and instead of them “surprising” us, we surprised them. Ohhhh yes! We surprised them. We knew they were coming again.  Before they came, my aunt living near the DCO called us and said that she saw Israeli tanks and jeeps going our way. That is when we knew they were paying another “visit”. So we took everything that can be taken, beds, TV, clothes, and moved it to my aunt’s house. When they came in, they were like “whaaat!” However, the nightmare began again—the nonstop shooting, anxiety and fear began again. The worst thing is that this time they didn’t only endanger our lives, and violate our rights, but they offended our religion. The soldiers that came the second time were stricter than the ones before. They were of the “religious” kind. They took all the crosses that were in the house and destroyed them. They broke them, stuffed them between shoes and even peed on them.

The day for them to leave “forever” had come. But of course their departure was as surprising as their arrival. They didn’t leave in a normal way as any normal person would do. No! They had to cause this one more damage. Before leaving, they asked us to stay inside the house. We didn’t know why until we saw the whole glass break into pieces. They exploded a bomb that they had planted in our land the first day they came as a trap for any intruders.

Just Discussions

Since November 2014, participants have gathered several times to discuss the power of sharing our stories with each other and methods of telling engaging stories.

Here are some of the ways we have engaged in dialogue with each other about how to share with others so that we may offer glimpses of the realities of our lives and learn from the realities of the lives of others as well as empower each other’s voices.

 Word Association Ice Breaker

Participants stood in a circle and each individual said their name and one word they think of when they hear the word, “story”.

Some of the responses given included, “personal”, “adventure”, “mine”, and “emotional.”

We discussed the patterns in the words we gave as responses and talked about the very personal nature of story-telling. What do our stories reveal about us? What do they say about who we have been? What do they say about who we want to be?

Drawing Perceptions

Each participant had a piece of paper. On one side of the blank sheet, we drew our vision of the other culture. What do we see when we think of that place and society? On the other side of the sheet, we drew a picture of our own culture. We discussed what our pictures of the other culture revealed about prejudices and preconceived ideas. The pictures of our own culture can show what we value most about where and how we live, and therefore, the story and image we want to share with others about the realities of our lives.

Illustrated Life Timeline

In order to help workshop engaging stories to share, participants each created an illustrated timeline of their life, from birth to present day. Everyone was encouraged to include at least 5 events from their life that they felt were the most important or formative. For example, we thought about what moments had made us most afraid? What moment did we feel most proud of ourselves, our culture, or our identity?

Example Memoir Excerpts

An important aim of the blog is empowering female voices. What better way to do this to learn from other female voices? Participants are encouraged to read memoirs written by women from around the world. We also read over excerpts to aid our discussions of what makes an engaging story. Specifically, we looked at excerpts from Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou, and Tasting the Sky by Ibtisam Barakat.

Facebook

Facebook has enabled us to continue the conversation after our workshops end and across the geographical distance. We have a shared group on which we can share interesting videos and interviews. Here are two things we have shared on Facebook and discussed outside of our time together:

StoryCorps Interview – A powerful interview between Yusor Abu-Salha –one of the victims of the recent murders of three Muslim students in Chapel Hill, North Carolina –  with her 3rd grade teacher, Mussarut Jabeen. Mussarut Jabeen also returned to StoryCorps recently to talk about Yusor’s death.

“Breaking out of Prison” by Honey Thaljieh

Please, carry on the conversation in your lives and circles as well. What can we learn from the stories of others? How do we tell meaningful, powerful stories? How can we share with each other in ways that empower and affirm rather than discourage and create distance.

An Adventure that Turned Out Well

by Tamara, 20 from Bethlehem

When you find yourself in a bad and scary situation, fear and doubt will not help you. If you can relax and think for a minute, it might not turn out as badly as you first thought. This story starts when I came to the USA to visit my sister who lives in Michigan.

I had one month left. I did not have any good pictures of the neighborhood, and so, I wanted to go around and take pictures, as photography is my hobby. So I asked my sister to go for a walk to take pictures, but she said, “No, you cannot. It is not safe outside.”

I replied quickly, “Do not worry, I will not go far.”

After a long argument, she wrote her address on a piece of paper and gave it to me. As I was closing the door, she hollered at me, “Tamar, be back in an hour!”

I started walking down the street with camera in hand. My eyes were searching for a picture to take. As I was thinking about the weather and the amazing sunset, two dogs jumped in front of me – they were huge and scary. I stood still as a stone. I was terrified, but I tried to be calm and confident, hoping they might leave me alone. But they started barking and chasing me. I started running and screaming loudly without knowing which way to go. Afterwards, the owner started hollering at them. Then he asked, “Are you okay ma’am? I am really sorry.” I answered with a low voice, “It is okay, I am fine.

After struggling to remember the way, I felt sure I was back to the same place I was before the dogs appeared. I looked at the sky and it was getting dark so I had to hurry up to get back home. I started walking until I reached the courtyard. I searched for apartment number 3. I found it and felt really relieved to be back home safe after this adventure. The door was open, so I entered and then realized I had entered the wrong apartment! The lady of the house said to me, “Excuse me, can I help you?” I started crying, thinking that I am lost. So she called 911.

Then the police officer arrived to her house. The moment I saw him I was shocked, he was sooo cute. He came close to me and said “What’s your name, honey?” As I looked at him my mouth dropped open and could not answer for a moment. The other time my answer was “Aha.” This silent moment made me feel safe. He started questioning me: What’s my name, Where am I from, Where am I staying. Of course my first answer was to tell the cute office my name. Then I told him the whole story. “All houses look the same and I thought this was my sister’s house…” He laughed because he knew it was true. When he asked me what my sister’s address was, I remembered I had her address with me. So I handed the paper to him.

When we arrived at my sister’s house, he knocked on the door. My sister came out stunned by the scene of me standing next to a police officer. She asked me “What have you done, what happened?”

Then the police officer explained to her everything. My sister and I thanked him for bringing me back home safe. Then she baked a cake and we took it to the neighbor who helped me and until now my sister and the neighbors have a good relationship.

My Forgotten and Reclaimed Dream

by Agnes, 23 from Pennsylvania

From the time that I was little I knew that I wanted to be a Special Education Teacher. I told everyone I knew about my dreams to work in Special Education when I grew up. Any time we would have a career day or someone would ask me what I wanted to be, that is what I would tell them.

But I got a little misled and confused along the way. In elementary school I volunteered a lot in the Special Education classroom and loved helping and loved making friends there.  Everyone said I was so good working with them, and I was glad because that it what I wanted to do with my life. In high school, I also worked in a Special Education classroom and loved it but was no longer sure about that being my career choice. In between high school and college, I took the year off and thought that I would give it another try. I worked in another Special Education classroom full-time until the summer. I loved every minute of it and started to think again that this was my perfect career choice.

Then, I went to college and decided to audition for the Conservatory to become a Music Therapist and work with music and Special Needs children. However, I did not get into the conservatory and decided to become a psychologist instead.

But when I graduated with my psychology degree I realized that I was still being called towards working in special education. I wished that I had realized that before graduating from college but that’s how it works sometimes. Now I am looking into schools so that I can continue to pursue my forgotten, and now reclaimed, dream of being a Special Education Teacher.