May 27, 2015
Changing Hearts and Minds with the Diverse Elders Stories Initiative
By: Jenna McDavid

One of my favorite radio shows, This American Life, featured an episode a few weeks ago about changing people’s minds – and how difficult that task can be.  As I was listening, I was also attempting to write this blog post, so the topic felt very timely.  I turned the volume up.  The introduction to the episode noted that when people tell stories about their experiences, listeners are more likely to be persuaded, versus when a researcher or journalist or someone on the outside looking in tries to advocate for change.  As an activist, this resonated strongly with me, and it reinforced the importance and the value of our Diverse Elders Stories Initiative.

This week, we’re re-launching our storytelling project, featuring voices from our communities of color and LGBT communities.  Stories change minds.  One of the most effective ways to educate the public and build momentum for diverse older adults is to describe our lives and the elements that shaped them.  Stories tell leaders about our struggles and triumphs in ways that facts and numbers cannot do alone.  And your story can be the story that leads to change.

rephondaWe’ve been collecting stories from the elders in our communities over the past few months in anticipating of re-launching this initiative.  One of my favorite stories comes from U.S. Representative Mike Honda.  Rep. Honda is a Japanese elder who spent his early childhood in an American internment camp in California.  “As a Japanese American whose family was interned during World War II and later went on to serve in the Peace Corps in El Salvador, moving in and between different communities is not new for me,” he writes, and when he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2000, he became an outspoken advocate for many of those communities.  In addition, Rep. Honda’s granddaughter identifies as transgender, and he has been a loving, supportive grandfather and advocate for her and other LGBTQ people in the United States.

You can read Mike’s story and the other stories we’ve collected in the Diverse Elders Stories archives on our website.  Preserving and sharing the stories of our communities is one of our main goals at the Diverse Elders Coalition, and we are so honored that so many of you have chosen to raise your voices and tell your tale to us.  We’ll use these stories to better advocate and make change on behalf of the communities we serve.  Over the next few months, we’ll be highlighting some of the contributions that we’ve received.  Want to tell your story?  Share with us here.


The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Diverse Elders Coalition.