By LISA WHALEY
International Storytelling Center President Kiran Singh Sirah is on the road again for storytelling; this time with the surprising task of sharing the value of Appalachian’s oldest art with the Pentagon.
“This is a project that has been in the works for a while,” Sirah said of the Washington, D.C.-based event being held this week. “It’s actually a collaboration between ISC and 40 other government, academic and other participating organizations.
“It relates to storytelling and peace building.”
Sirah will act as one of three keynote speakers who will help frame the two-day symposium. ISC, along with frequent collaborator the Alliance for Peacebuilding, also worked together in the early stages to format the event.
“Ultimately this helps bring together many think-tank agencies,” Sirah explained.
Participating organizations include many branches of the Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security, Johns Hopkins University of Applied Physics and Laboratory, George Mason University-Center for the Study of Narrative and Conflict Resolution, Institute for Strategic Dialogue and the U.S. Institute of Peace, just to name a few.
“These are people from the top,” Sirah stressed. And his message to these global thinkers is one he continues to share every time he leaves Jonesborough.
“I want more and more people to realize that storytelling goes way beyond entertainment,” he said. “It’s the most powerful tool to connect and create communities peace i the world. We may be a town of 5,000 people, we actually have an art form that can literally change the world,”
Though he believes Jonesborough may hold the key, stories and conflict resolution have always been something of a personnel quest for Sirah. It actually began the day he transformed being bullied on a playground as a youth into a position of power as he began to share his family stories and his pride in that family.
Kiran has also already used this age-old art in such locations at Fort Benning, Georgia, where he has been called upon to share his knowledge of peace-building techniques with commanders and eventually their troops.
“We are all seeking the same thing,” Sirah said. “We all want to be loved. We all want to feel like we belong in the world.
Never, as yet, has the world known a conflict-free existence, he admits.
“We can’t know what peace looks like,” Kiran said.
But through the power of shared stories, he said, it is something we can all envision. And Sirah is convinced ISC and Jonesborough will be at the forefront of that coming revolution.