Let Go & Lead
Patricia Harrison President & CEO
Corporation for Public Broadcasting

On Storytelling (3:29)

PATRICIA HARRISON:
It’s the core part of everything we do.  In fact, we have, uh, a wonderful initiative called Story Corps that began, uh, right after 9/11 and they set-up a booth, uh, in I believe it was Grand Central Station to just get New Yorkers to be able to sit down and talk, talk to their loved ones, talk to their friends.  Story Corps, now it’s on NPR.  I’ve often thought that Story Core as a tool of effective public diplomacy would be the best thing for this country because what you’re saying is everyone has a story worth listening to.  Everyone has a story they want to tell.  And when you listen to someone’s story you’re saying I respect you and that’s what’s missing in, in today’s lack perhaps of a sense of community.

How do you disagree with respect?  How do you have your opinion but let the other person have theirs?  How do you connect to people?  You connect through their stories.  If you take the time to listen to their stories yeah, well, oh, so you have a grandmother who did that.  Oh.  But you come from here but you’re different.  The stories are the most powerful thing we have and public media, our mission, is to tell America’s story in a way that respects the teller and has integrity at the core of each story.

MARIL MACDONALD:
I loved what you just talked about because generally when I ask about story-telling people talk about telling the story they want to tell.  You just talked about hearing the story —

PATRICIA HARRISON:
The story.

MARIL MACDONALD:
— someone wants to share.  Uh, that’s a really interesting turn on it.

PATRICIA HARRISON:
And if you think about some of the incredible initiatives in this country, what are they about?  Nancy Brinker’s sister, Susan Koman, dies of breast cancer.  Nancy Brinker wants to tell this story.  How does she tell it?  She creates Race with a Cure.

MARIL MACDONALD:
Right.

PATRICIA HARRISON:
A mother loses a child because a drunk driver killed the child.  The mother tells this story and creates Mothers Against Drunk Driving.  These are just stories, stories put into action.  In Egypt, young people want their stories heard.  They’re tired of living a life where they can’t see a future.  Those stories get played out and we better listen to these stories.  Stories are very important.

MARIL MACDONALD:
It’s also very interesting as leaders that the more we listen the better we lead because it actually changes our sense of purpose of what we’re leading toward.

PATRICIA HARRISON:
That, that’s such a key point.  It, it really, really does.  Most of the time I’m, I’m on push the play button and you really sometimes have to, not sometimes but more often than pushing the play button, uh, listen, listen, and try not to interrupt. You know, everyone’s saying everything at once.  But at the end of the day there is a rhythm to it and you really hear in all of that cacophony, the message that’s coming through and the, the story is family.  Family is a community.  People want to be part of a family.  Not everybody has a close family but they want to duplicate that in the community.  So there is an outlet through these stories for your story, my story, everybody’s story to bring us together in a community.