StoryCorps Founder Dave Isay Visits the Honors College
This spring, the Honors College welcomed award-winning StoryCorps founder Dave Isay to speak with students at the Forum, the mission course taken by all first-year Honors College students. Mr. Isay discussed the history of StoryCorps and the power of storytelling, and shared what it means to have purpose in your work. His ultimate message? Listening is an act of love.
Originally a student on the pre-med track, Mr. Isay found his life’s calling when he first met Angel and Carmen in 1987, a couple who owned a store near his college campus. Both were recovering heroin addicts afflicted by AIDS, who dreamed of building a museum to addiction before they died; however, they had received several rejection letters from possible donors. Mr. Isay fell in love with their courage of conviction and their constant hope, so he decided to record their story to share it with the world. Within 24 hours of airing on a community radio station, the story was picked up by National Public Radio—he knew he had found his “thing.”
Mr. Isay’s experiences opened his eyes to “the beauty and the grace and the poetry all around us when we take the time to listen.” With a mission to preserve and share humanity’s stories in order to build connections between people and create a more just and compassionate world, StoryCorps started with one audio recording booth in New York City’s Grand Central Terminal. Passers-by could drop in to share their stories, and with a microphone in that sort of sacred space, they could more readily express their emotions and share their private stories.
After gaining success in collecting stories from that booth, StoryCorps expanded to include two mobile booths—vans that would travel cross-country to gather stories. What happens with all these recordings and stories? They go to the largest library in the world—the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. To date, 50,000 interviews have been archived and preserved.
Mr. Isay engaged the Honors College students with some key lessons about hard work and the importance of passion. “Nothing good is easy, and if something is too easy, be very suspicious,” he commented. “Everything good takes incredibly mind-numbing work.” He stressed the importance of working hard towards following your dreams, despite hardships. “To know that what you’re going to do is good for people—it’s the most amazing feeling in the world.”
Sunita Kramer, Associate Dean of Academics at the Honors College, said, “We strive to instill in our students a sense of purpose in their work, a theme that Mr. Isay talked about in his presentation. It was exciting for all of us as educators to see—someone whose contributions have been so widely recognized and impactful standing as an example for our students.”
Mr. Isay left the students with one last piece of advice from his book, Callings: The Passion and Purpose of Work. “Live with courage.”
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