'The Great Thanksgiving Listen': StoryCorps Asks Listeners To Record Conversations

Nov 19, 2016
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LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

StoryCorps has made it its mission to collect and preserve audio conversations from every corner of the country. And this Thanksgiving, for the second year in a row, StoryCorps is asking its younger listeners to record Thanksgiving conversations with their elders using the StoryCorps smartphone app. The app can be downloaded on smartphones or the App Store and Google Play. And these conversations will be preserved at the Library of Congress. StoryCorps is calling it The Great Thanksgiving Listen. StoryCorps founder Dave Isay joined us from New York to talk about it. He said last year, StoryCorps collected some 50,000 Thanksgiving recordings. Here's one submitted by Lavina Thadani(ph) of Naperville, Ill. She's interviewing her grandfather Gope Thadani (ph) about coming to the U.S. from India.

(SOUNDBITE OF RADIO DIARY)

GOPE THADANI: I'd never seen snow in my life. It's amazing. But when you had to go out and when you had...

LAVINA THADANI: (Laughter).

C. THADANI: ...To drive in that snow, oh my God, it's horrible. So it was very hard in the beginning, but it is one thing I did good in my life by coming to America because now my children and my grandchildren and their children will enjoy the fruit of that. I think that is the best part of my life.

L. THADANI: Do you have any regrets?

C. THADANI: Yes. I have one big regret. I've been playing lotto since last 50 years and I'm not a millionaire yet. So that's...

L. THADANI: (Laughter).

C. THADANI: ...My biggest regret.

WERTHEIMER: I think we all feel that way, don't we? (Laughter).

DAVE ISAY: I haven't heard that before. That's lovely.

WERTHEIMER: So what kind of conversations are you hoping to inspire this year?

ISAY: Well, we are doing a pivot this year coming out of the election. You know, last year, we asked U.S. history and social studies teachers to participate with their students. And this year, we're opening it up to all teachers, to all students from middle school to college. You have to be, I think, 12 in order to do this and to upload it to the Library of Congress, we ask. We're asking teachers to assign their kids to talk to elders about the election, about the divide, getting advice from elders on how to heal the divide, their hopes and fears going forward, and to create a document over the weekend of who we are at this very dramatic moment in American history.

WERTHEIMER: Are we kind of thinking of last year as the sort of traditional Thanksgiving and this Thanksgiving is not going to be that? Is that your impression?

ISAY: Yeah, I think so. We've all seen and heard these articles about people refusing to come to Thanksgiving and families not talking to each other, so...

WERTHEIMER: And where's everybody going to sit and who's...

ISAY: That's right.

WERTHEIMER: All the...

ISAY: That's right. And...

WERTHEIMER: People always fight on Thanksgiving, though - we always know that.

ISAY: They do. But, you know, there's a way, I think, to have civil, thoughtful conversations. And we're not asking people on the app to argue about politics. It's about talking about, you know, who they are, where they come from, what their dreams are. And people take it very seriously because there's a formality to it. Each interview goes to the Library of Congress. Each of these interviews will be heard, you know, by your great, great, great, great, great, great grandchildren. And you want to put your best face forward for your great, great, great grandchildren. So we're hoping that a lot of people will participate, and it'll be a moment of unity at this very difficult time when the country is ripped down the middle.

WERTHEIMER: Dave Isay is the founder of StoryCorps, and he joined us from our studios in New York. StoryCorps is encouraging young people to interview their elders this week using the StoryCorps app for The Great Thanksgiving Listen. Dave, thank you.

ISAY: Thank you, Linda. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.