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Producers' Pick | David Isay: One Small Step

Brian Kilmeade Show / Brian Kilmeade
The Truth Network Radio
January 15, 2022 12:00 am

Producers' Pick | David Isay: One Small Step

Brian Kilmeade Show / Brian Kilmeade

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January 15, 2022 12:00 am

David Isay started Storycorps nearly 20 years ago as a way for people to memorialize their feelings about someone close to them through recorded discussions.

“One Small Step” is an offshoot of Storycorps and employs some of the same techniques, but the goal is very different. This project was conceived as a small way to begin to get us out of what Isay calls the “Hate Industrial Complex,” meaning the media on all sides of the political spectrum profiting from our current “culture of contempt” for one another.

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This is the Brian Kilmeade Show. So we match strangers who disagree politically to put them face to face for 50 minutes. It's not to talk about politics, it's just to talk about your lives. Facilitators begin by asking the participants to read one another's biography out loud, as in this recent session in Richmond, Virginia. The project tries to match people who may be from different political parties, but have something else in common.

I grew up as an army brat and an evangelical Christian, surrounded by a very powerful ideology of conservatism, patriotism, and religion. I am a Baptist pastor and performance artist, a native Charlottesvilleian, graduate of the University of Virginia and Union Theological Seminary in New York City. Participants are encouraged to focus on what they share. We're pastors and we're helping people to find their path and find their voice. Oh, Brenda, I love what you just said about helping people find their path because I feel such a connection there.

So, I don't have to tell you that we're a polarized society, that people are really dug in in their political beliefs and begin to stop talking to family members or friends if they disagree. David Isay said the same thing, he noticed that, so he created what you just heard, One Small Step. It's an offshoot of StoryCorps and StoryCorps is a way of people to come in and tell their stories, their own personal stories. It doesn't have to be an entertainment tonight, not something that might appear on Inside Edition or be featured on 60 Minutes, but so-called average everyday Americans telling their stories and putting it into the archives and letting them know that their story matters. David Isay is taking on this ambitious project, which is laudable. David, congratulations on getting 60 Minutes attention again. Tell me about how 60 Minutes got a hold of you and I realize this project was something worth doing.

Brian, hey, it's great to be on your show, thanks. Yeah, 60 Minutes did a feature on One Small Step over the weekend. And, you know, I think we launched about eight months ago and it's, you know, as you said, we live, things are a little bit bonkers right now in this country.

And, you know, this isn't the country we want to leave for our kids where we see our neighbors as our most dangerous enemies. And given all that's going on, I think that they felt like there was a story there. And also, as you said, kind of the bigger story of StoryCorps, which is this 18 year old effort, as you said, just about us, just about regular people, where two people who love each other, you bring your grandmother to a booth and interview her about her life with the help of a facilitator. It's just audio. And that interview goes to the Library of Congress.

So your great, great, great, great grandkids can get to know your grandmother through her voice and story. You know, it's the beauty and power and grace and poetry and the stories hiding in plain sight all around us when we take the time to listen. And, you know, as the polarization began to, you know, like a hockey stick, just go absolutely crazy. We thought, you know, we're a nonprofit in the human connection business. Is there some way we can take the methodology we have of putting people together and put strangers together and see if we can make a difference? And we tested it and tested it. You know, our Hippocratic oath is we do no harm to people. So we spent a long time making sure that this was something that made a difference and it does.

And we've started now scaling this as well. And the dream is to convince the country it's our patriotic duty to see the humanity of people we disagree with. So to be able to talk, David, so you what you believe. And there's a theory behind this.

You call it is called the contact theory that people disagree. It's harder to disagree when you stare at each other face to face. And put each other in each seat, whether it's Russia, whether it's Russia in the U.S. or Russia, NATO, when you it's easy to sit there and throw barbs at each other. But when you sit behind a table, hopefully they could start seeing a little bit more how the other side thinks. So how did you execute this for people that missed your 60 minutes?

How did you execute this project? Sure. And it's not just how the other side thinks. It's just reminding people that the other side are human beings because we've forgotten that.

And when you bring up the Russian and Chinese, I mean, there are polls out that say that we hate our, you know, our neighbors across the political divides and fear them more than we do our traditional international adversaries like the Russian and Chinese. So as you heard in that clip, the execution of this is pretty simple. You sign up. We have a Web site.

Take one small step dot org. And you write you write a bio and you talk a little bit about your politics and we match you as someone across the political divides. And as it said in the piece, usually there's something that you have in common with that person, though you don't know what it is. You get the bio of your partner. And as you heard in that clip, you went when the interview starts and all these are done now over a special secure video connection that feels like you're there with the other person.

It's a kind of a bespoke, easy to use video platform. And you read your partner's bio to them. They read it to you and you talk not about politics, just about your lives. And at the end of these interviews, you know, these are people I mean, you know this. It's like what's life about except being surprised, right? You know, you realize someone who you might have thought was nuts is just like you. I mean, we have there's so much more we share in common as a country than divides us.

And at the end of every one of these interviews, they go on for 50 minutes at the end of the interviews, every single one ends the same way. Like, let's take a walk together. You know, when the pandemic's over, I'm having you for dinner. Let me have your phone number. And, you know, we just like you said, it's when when when we see each other face to face, we're reminded of the truth.

And that truth is that, you know, if we spent more time listening to each other and less time screaming, we'd be a much stronger country. So if I wanted to if people listening right now want to participate, do you pair them up? Do they reach out and apply with you? Yes. So we will pair you up. I mean, we have a waiting list now about seven thousand people.

Wow. But we're we're we're we're working through it and we're staffing up and we're going to get through that. So it may be a little bit of a wait a couple of weeks. But yeah, you just sign up and we pair you with someone and you don't meet them face to face.

You just meet them online and you have this conversation. And, you know, it we've we've had we've done about a thousand of these so far and not one of them has gone wrong. So can you tell me what's gone right?

Can you tell me what usually happens? Have you have you some universal truths to which you've observed? Well, I mean, I think people when people talk, when people get on these on these conversations, it's very similar to a typical story core conversation in that, you know, people people talk about, you know, who is kindest to in your life?

Who are your parents? People realize, you know, I'm thinking about an interview now between a conservative guy and a liberal woman and the conservative guy's father had been a photographer in World War Two and had liberated the camps. And he talked about when his father showed him the pictures of the camps when he was four years old.

And the and the woman says that her parents had survived the Holocaust, you know, and you go you have a conversation like that and you begin to build some social capital, you know, so that when when, you know, when we start, you know, doubting each other and fearing each other. You've got you've got this kind of tunnel to someone across the divide that you can reach out to and remind yourself that, you know, this is America. You know, we're going to do better than this. You know, are we going to are we going to throw stones at each other or pick them up and build a better country together?

Talking to David, I say his his programs were featured on 60 Minutes. Again, this was the second time he did it. But he's trying to break ground to make a difference rather than sit back and say, man, the country's polarized. He's trying one, two people at a time to change that.

So people learn to talk to each other and hopefully it grows exponentially. Fundamentally, can we go back to your first program and that the first probe is a story core? Yeah, so here's an example of story core So what you do is get two people who are related or friends and they talk to each other about their story Here's an example and this is a just to set it up These are two kids talking about their dad as a Vietnam veteran and his experience loss of memory he served as a US military pilot in World War two and Korea and Vietnam two of his children Isabella and Juan Pablo and seniors came to StoryCorps to remember him when I was little I Remember him flying in in his fighter jet and that's waiting for him on the tarmac and thinking oh my god What a hero my father is as he got older.

He was diagnosed with dementia But even at the end when he cognitively wasn't all there he would hear a plane and just look up and stare at it in the sky and you could tell that he just wanted to Be up in that plane with every ounce of his being maybe he's listening to us somewhere up there. I hope so That story's great. You have pictures to go along with it.

Where's it go? So we've had 600,000 people participate in StoryCorps And a few of them are edited into these little three-minute segments that we make Animations out of you can find it at All of the interviews go to the Library of Congress and again I mean this is as you said at the beginning it You know when you when you sit with your grandparent and you ask them who they are You know, how do they want to be remembered or reminds them that they matter and they won't be forgotten Every interview goes to the Library of Congress, you know, so, you know, we know that That that you know all the people around us our grandparents they deserve to be part of American history but you know a lot of people feel in this country like their stories don't matter and that's that's part of what StoryCorps is saying that Every story matters equally and infinitely and we got to listen to each other and you know those stories as you know That aren't the famous people on entertainment, you know tonight or whatever Those are the stories that really matter and those are the stories that stick with us for the rest of our lives So that's what we're trying to do. It's you know tilting it windmills It's a bit of a difficult effort given the culture But we believe in it with every cell in our body and we're gonna keep fighting this fight until we win You know, it's interesting. Is that I've had a chance to travel and most of Fox viewers and listeners are outside, New York So we're located in New York City, New York City So I probably over the last in between on my book tour from November to January I probably met 5,000 people and there's no one could care less about the subway system in New York who the mayor is They're talking about their own lives their own things and as it relates to them and I find it all fascinating I find them as interesting If not, the Secretary of State's I get a chance to talk to on a regular basis And I just love the fact that instead of me just the I talk about it You actually did it so credit to you and this is another example of what's on StoryCorps Listen to this. Are you proud of me? Of course You my man. I just love everything about you period the thing I love about you You never give up on me. That's one of the things I will always remember my dad So a father and son talking about each other at that age at that time and you're starting to animate them I understand too.

So people get a visual That's right. That's right Yes, and you can you can you can watch these things again at our website. There's hundreds of animations there's thousands of stories to listen to and hundreds of thousands of stories at the Library of Congress and you know What you said as you said traveling around is exactly right that that you know that our stories are You know, it's also I know you you write fantastic history books You know that history is also often told through you know states people and politicians and and you know hearing history through our voices through our stories has You know something really powerful to add to that to that story a bottom-up kind of history of who we are Well, you brought that up too because one of the main things that attracted me to last project is Frederick Douglass wrote his own biography And then he updated it three times So it just wipes out the analysis and the opinion part of it So you get them firsthand and then the other people right around it. I was like, that's all I need so And I just one of the one of the thing which is that the and the other lesson I'm sure you learned from going around on your book tour We have facilitators who travel around like recording these stories listening to people Whether it's regular story core one small step and we've had hundreds of them who serve a tour of duty with us again We're a nonprofit, you know bearing witness to these interviews and every single one of them when they come off the road If you ask them what they learn they give a version of the end-frame quote that people are basically good and you could say That maybe it was there was some kind of a selection bias when we did tens or hundreds or thousands of interviews But when you're in the hundreds and hundreds of thousands, there's a truth to it I mean as Americans we are basically good and we've forgotten that and we have to remember that For the future for our democracy because the democracy cannot survive in a swamp of mutual contempt.

How do you survive with these programs? Yeah, I know you don't say it's nonprofit the people sponsor you yeah, so we I spend my we we raise money from donors and And And we work very very very hard as you know people do in the nonprofit sector and we and we make it work We have we have corporate sponsors. We have individual donors We have foundations on the left and right and I think you know, people are aware that you know This this what's called toxic polarization in the country and this is not about arguing with each other arguing with each other is completely Healthy, it's what a democracy is all about. It's when we stop seeing the humanity in each other that things get really out of whack It's called affective polarization and you know, we know what happens with affective polarization the in Nazi Germany the The Nazis used to call the Jews under mention less than human when we start to see each other than as less than human You enter a very very dangerous territory and you know, I hate to say it but that's where we're going in this country and with one small step, that's what we're fighting against with every breath in our body because Because our country won't be able to hold if if we cannot see the humanity in one another understood real quick How do you feel if like an AOC and Jim Jordan sat down? Do you think that would be something not only get attention to your program, but would help?

Probably not Unfortunately, I mean it's a good idea But people have preconceived notions about a Jim Jordan and AOC so they already hate AOC or they already hate Jim Jordan When you've got everyday people sitting down, you don't know these people So you haven't turned them off yet in your in your mind if does that make sense Brian? Do you know what I mean? I understand. Oh, I mean we are going to do stuff in Washington DC But I think what we're gonna do is do it behind closed doors So these folks can get to know each other as human beings but not release it Because the the environment especially on Twitter is so toxic that I'm not sure that it'll that it'll help in the cause I've just you know, so shifting social norms, you know at one point, you know, it's not a perfect analogy But smoking was cool and sexy and then it wasn't you know, and right now treating each other like garbage And you know treating each other without humanity is cool and sexy and you know What we have to do is make it so it isn't anymore. It's not okay.

It's not okay. I hear you David Thanks so much for what you do deserve tremendous credit. You can follow him at Dave. I say that's Dave is a why Dave Thank you Brian, thanks a lot. I really appreciate the time to prove one small step and story core You listen to the Brian kill me chill back with you in just a moment. I want to hear your story educating entertaining enlightening you're with Brian kill made from the Fox News podcast network Subscribe and listen to the Trey Gowdy podcast former federal prosecutor and four-term US congressman from South Carolina Brings you a one-of-a-kind podcast subscribe and listen now by going to
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-02-14 22:43:16 / 2023-02-14 22:52:33 / 9

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