Birmingham Chosen for Project on Talking Across the Political Divide


Dave Isay. Source: Story Corps

About the only agreement between Democrats and Republicans these days is that their opposite number is evil.

 At least that is the impression one gets in the aggregate. But what about one-on-one? Can you face a political adversary and explain what you feel, how you feel and why you feel that way? And engage in a dialogue in which you also listen to the other party’s feelings and opinions?

 Dave Isay would like for you to take that challenge.


 Just go to:

Story Corps, Isay’s nonprofit organization devoted to bringing people together, will match you up across the political divide, and your exchange of viewpoints will be recorded — with one copy of it residing forever in the Library of Congress.

Vituperative, obscene putdowns probably won’t come so readily as they do on Facebook or Twitter, Isay is betting. And he is hoping that people actually listen to each other.

Isay started Story Corps in 2003 with booths all over the country where two people could talk into individual microphones — for example, a grandson and his grandmother — and could ask and answer questions and have their exchange  recorded for permanent preservation.

“More than 650,000 people have participated,” Isay said in an interview from his Brooklyn, N.Y., home. “This is the largest (permanent) collection of human voices. We edit a very small portion for release.”

Those who listen to NPR may have heard those Story Corps recordings on WBHM. Isay, 53, also is a recipient of a MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship grant for his groundbreaking work in broadcasting.

Birmingham and Three Other Cities Picked for Project

Birmingham is one of four cities chosen to be part of this latest Story Corps collection. Wichita, Kansas, is also in the group, with the other two locations yet to be revealed. 

Isay said the new project of bringing together people of differing political persuasions moved onto his radar “a little more than four years ago when it became apparent we weren’t seeing human beings across the great divide.”

The concept arose from a psychological theory, called “contact theory,” he said. Basically, the idea is to “put together ‘them’ and ‘us.’ It is hard to hate up close.”

So, go ahead and accept Isay’s challenge.

And do talk to strangers!