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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“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.

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.