To Survive A Post-Election Thanksgiving, Try StoryCorps' Oral History Project

Nov 24, 2016
Originally published on November 24, 2016 7:49 am

Looking for a diversion from divisive political conversation this Thanksgiving? StoryCorps suggests using its smartphone app as part of its Great Thanksgiving Listen project.

The project asks middle, high school and college students to record conversations with elders using the app. The app can suggest questions to ask. "We're not asking people on the app to argue about politics," StoryCorps founder Dave Isay recently told NPR's Linda Wertheimer. "It's about talking about who they are, where they come from, what their dreams are."

Users can both record the interview and upload it to the StoryCorps archive in the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress.

"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," Isay said.

StoryCorps also created a toolkit for the project for teachers to help students prepare for their interviews. Here are some interview tips.

Last year — the pilot for the Great Thanksgiving Project — more than 50,000 Thanksgiving recordings were uploaded, including one from Savannah Houseworth, then 15. She interviewed her grandfather, Gary Ogden, in Humboldt County, Calif., about his childhood, his time spent in the Vietnam War and his advice for living a happy life and marriage.

You can hear more of Savannah's Great Thanksgiving Listen interview by clicking the audio button above.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

StoryCorps has some advice - it's that talking politics at the dinner table might not be the best way to aid digestion after your Thanksgiving meal. So StoryCorps is urging kids to change the subject and talk about something else - their family's history. The Great Thanksgiving Listen encourages high school students across this country to interview an older member of their family. Savannah Houseworth of Humboldt County, Calif. talked to her grandfather, Gary Ogden.

SAVANNAH HOUSEWORTH: Did you start working early on in your life?

GARY OGDEN: Yes. My dad had me driving a tractor probably at about 10 years old. We had 160 acres to farm, and we farmed all the time. And instead of having money to buy stuff, we traded with the other farmers. If we had potatoes and they had corn, we traded potatoes for corn. And if the neighbors had grapes, we'd give them oranges and they'd give us grapes.

HOUSEWORTH: Wow.

GREENE: Savannah wanted to know about her grandfather's service in Vietnam, and about the time he was the most frightened.

OGDEN: When I went over in the service, I thought I was going to be as a mechanic or something like that. And when I got over there, they put me in the frontline infantry.

HOUSEWORTH: So you were fighting? Were you in combat?

OGDEN: Yeah. You know, about my 21st birthday - that's when I went on maneuver. We were retaking a fire base that we had already taken. And we lost half our company on that maneuver.

HOUSEWORTH: Geez. Do you think that there was a point to the Vietnam War?

OGDEN: When I went over there, I thought it was to help fight against communism. And after I got over there, I felt it was just survival. You were basically trying to save yourself.

GREENE: Now finally, Savannah asked her grandfather for some advice about love.

HOUSEWORTH: What's your secret to happy marriage now that you're with grandma?

OGDEN: Well, you know, she's your grandma, and she's my wife. But she's my best friend, and she's my best friend first. And she always will be.

HOUSEWORTH: Aw.

(LAUGHTER)

HOUSEWORTH: Thank you again for letting me do this interview on you. And I know that when people hear this, they will be touched just like I was. Thank you, grandpa.

GREENE: That was Savannah Houseworth with her grandfather Gary Ogden. Their interview was recorded as part of StoryCorps' Great Thanksgiving Listen. And you can find out how you can participate at npr.org. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.