Share with StoryCorps: What do you stand for?

With StoryCorps, add your voice to the record that’s shaping a new tradition — Civic Season

Microphone and Storycorps logo on pink background

This Civic Season, Made By Us is partnering with StoryCorps to open more pathways to add your voice to the ever-evolving American narrative. Nearly 250 years after the country’s founding, we’re still wrestling with who we’ll become as a nation, as a society, as a world. Indeed, the United States has always been shaped by the many people who pitch in to help us live up to the vision shared in the Declaration of Independence.

Read on to find out how you can contribute your perspective, your vision, and your personal history to the record. Or, check out the collection of stories being added here.

StoryCorps gives people of all backgrounds, typically two at a time, the opportunity to record meaningful conversations and archive the recordings at the Library of Congress. Recording a StoryCorps interview couldn’t be easier: You invite a loved one, or anyone else you choose, to one of the StoryCorps recording sites or over Zoom to share a 40-minute conversation.

During this year’s Civic Season celebration, between Juneteenth and July 4th, sign up to record a conversation at the Atlanta History Center location here or catch us on the West Coast as part of our mobile tour here. Or, use the StoryCorps App or StoryCorps Connect and make a plan to record anywhere. When you sign up with the app, use the code civicseason to add your story to our collection!

Food For Thought: Widening the Lens on Our National Narrative

When Thomas Jefferson convened people around the dinner table for debates and discussions, the United States wasn’t an idea everyone agreed upon — and as an enslaver advocating for independence, he brought his own contradictions to the table. And there’s no better time to pull up a chair (or a picnic blanket) this Civic Season and join the convo. We’re drawing inspiration from Monticello’s Feast of Reason card deck as a way to navigate the strong opinions that many of us hold about “civic issues” so that breaking bread together can bring us closer — this includes the many issues that emerge from living in a community, from economic to political to religious to identity. And we invite you to participate in this experiment in unscripted, spirited conversation about who we are, how we got here, and the ways in which we can use each day to shape our country and our future.

Questions to Get You Started

Great conversations often begin with great questions. Here’s some inspiration for you and your story-partner to use in your recording! Be sure to bring a list of questions with you to your recording.

  • What’s your favorite civic, cultural or patriotic tradition?
  • Do you think traditions should evolve, or stay the same? Why?
  • What’s a favorite childhood food — and where do you call home now?
  • How do you celebrate what you stand for — however you interpret this?
  • What food do you think best represents your family, state or country?
  • What is something about the United States that doesn’t make sense to you?
  • What ingredients do you think are essential for our country to function?
  • Is there a peculiar food combo you love that others find strange?
  • What role has food played in your civic identity?
  • What makes you proud of your country?
  • What do you think about the idea of a “Civic Season” between Juneteenth and July 4th, every summer?
  • Which two people do you think most need to sit down across the table from each other and share a meal?
  • If you could make our country better, wouldn’t you? Why or why not?
  • If what we stand for is who we become…who are we becoming?
  • What do you want to be known for in the history of the United States?
  • What is your wish for the United States of America?

Need more? Check out StoryCorps’ Great Questions.

What To Expect at a StoryCorps Interview

A StoryCorps interview is 40 minutes of uninterrupted time for meaningful conversation with a friend or loved one. What are the questions you want to ask and the memories you want to preserve? No matter how well you know your storyteller, a little preparation will improve the quality of your interview enormously.

Whether you choose to record in person or remotely, a trained StoryCorps Facilitator will be available to familiarize you with the process for your interview session. If you are alone, the Facilitator will conduct the interview.

THE SIX BASIC STEPS TO A STORYCORPS INTERVIEW

1. WELCOME

(2 minutes): The Facilitator will provide some background information about StoryCorps, explain his or her role in the interview process, and answer any questions you might have.

2. PREP

(8 minutes): The Facilitator will walk you through the paperwork, which asks for basic personal information such as name, address, and ethnic background.

3. SOUND CHECK

(5 minutes): Once you and your interview partner are ready to proceed, the Facilitator will make sure you are positioned well for recording and check the audio levels.

4. INTERVIEW

(40 minutes): Use your prepared question list, but remember they are just suggestions to get you started. Trust your instincts. When you hear something that moves you, ask more questions. Sometimes your storyteller will need “permission” to explore a certain topic; you can simply say “Tell me more.” Feel free to ask questions in whatever order feels right, and don’t let them constrain the conversation. Real moments are the best moments.

Some tips for helping the conversation flow:

  • Look at your storyteller’s eyes, not the microphone. Stay interested and engaged.
  • Be yourself; you can laugh or even cry with your storyteller.
  • Emotional questions like “how does this make you feel?” often elicit thoughtful responses. Don’t be afraid to ask.
  • Be curious and honest and keep an open heart. Great things will happen.

While you and your partner are talking, the Facilitator will take notes, keep time, and monitor audio. Facilitators are not interviewers, though they may ask a question during the recording.

5. RELEASE OPTIONS

(4 minutes): Our facilitator will explain the release form, which allows StoryCorps to keep one copy of your recording and send another to the archive at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. After your recording has been archived, StoryCorps will send you a digital copy of the interview for download.

6. PHOTOS

(6 minutes): Finally, the Facilitator will take photos of you and your interview partner, both together and separately. These photos will be included in the archive at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress.

Already recorded? Be sure to share your experience in the Civic Season Zine.

Ready for more? Dig into the many ways to explore what you stand for during the Civic Season, and check back as more stories are added to the collection!

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