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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

StoryCorps Marks 10 Years Chronicling American Lives

StoryCorps traveling recording studio. (

StoryCorps traveling recording studio. (

As families and friends gather for Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow, it’s also a time for catching up and sharing stories. The oral history project StoryCorps has been encouraging that.

StoryCorps founder David Isay has declared the day after Thanksgiving the “National Day of Listening,” for friends and families to record each other’s stories. That fits with what StoryCorps does the rest of the year — setting up mobile booths that travel the country and record stories of regular Americans, many of which air on NPR’s “Morning Edition.”

You may have heard the story of a Marine nearly killed in Afghanistan, and how he and his wife picked up the pieces. Or the single dad who took his infant daughter with him to college. StoryCorps has collected more than 30,000 interviews, archived at the Library of Congress. And this year they’re celebrating 10 years.

Isay joins Here & Now’s Robin Young to discuss the history and 10 year anniversary of StoryCorps. Young also speaks with Bryan Wilmoth and Michael Wilmoth, brothers who shared a story with StoryCorps.

Interview Highlights

David Isay on what StoryCorps does

“It’s two people in a booth having a conversation with the help of a trained facilitator. And in doing so, I think, you know, reminding the person that’s being listened to that their life is important, that they won’t be forgotten, they matter. About a year into this thing, I began to see the power of this idea, and I decided — I used to make radio documentaries for public radio — and I decided to retire from doing that, and devote the rest of my life to hopefully building StoryCorps into a sustaining national institution that reminds us all of the values inherent in public radio, in what you do and what we do. The importance of listening and recognizing, you know, every life and every story matters.”

Bryan Wilmoth on his story

“[My dad] was afraid that me being gay would have some sort of cultural influence on [his children]. You know, he was a very religious man, still is a very religious man. And I think his religious base was fear, and he was afraid that his children weren’t going to turn out the way he wanted. And I gotta tell you, my dad had a vision for each of his eight children, you know, and when he began to see that crumble, I think he began to panic.”

Michael Wilmoth on participating in StoryCorps

“Brian’s a very diligent person. When he gets something and he wants to do something, he does it. And so he really kind of forced me back into his life, and when the StoryCorps opportunity came up, it was just a great way for us to kind of sit down and take a deep breath and let everything out.”


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