The Story of the Storyteller

With a B.A. in Speech and Drama and a Master’s in Library Science, Michale acquired a love of storytelling as a librarian in Alaska, reading stories to children and recognizing how these stories gained their interest, empathy, and imagination.

Eventually, Michale became the Director of Development for the Jackson School of International Studies at the University of Washington, where she was in charge of a successful fundraising effort . After she had accomplished this, she was left to imagine the next steps for her career.

Michale discusses her vision of "Peace through story" - a goal of breaking down barriers through the power of storytelling. (From part 1 of a documentary series about Michale's trip to the Soviet Union with students.)

Suddenly, while meditating in her backyard, Michale had a vision: “a globe with a hand on one side and a hand on the the other,” with the words “peace through story” above . Despite this vision, Michale had no understanding of how it would be accomplished. She spent the next several years telling stories in schools to begin accomplishing this goal, but her biggest opportunity came in 1984, where she decided to travel with a group from her church to Russia as a delegation of citizen diplomats. With this group, she was tasked with communicating the delegation’s goals to the local community, as well as doing her best to extend an olive branch to the Soviets she would be visiting. In the short time she had, Gabriel gathered both the money she needed to go on the trip, and, more impressively, 2,000 letters, pictures, drawings, etc. from Lake Washington school district that were addressed to the citizens of the Soviet Union, communicating peaceful wishes as well as a better understanding of American culture .

Michale Gabriel talks about taking letters and art from Lake Washington School District to the Soviet Union on her first trip to the USSR, focusing on the empathy she was working to create.

Later, in 1985, Michale went back on another trip to the Soviet Union, this time making connections with Soviet peace organizations and laying the groundwork for her own delegation of 27 children and 20 adults — the Young Storytellers for Peace — that would travel to Moscow in March of 1986. If nothing else, her efforts were successful at the logistical level — she managed to connect her delegation with key groups in the Soviet Union, creating opportunities for the delegation to serve as a representative of the United States, as well as gain a much deeper understanding of the people and the culture that their country seemed so opposed to.

The Story of the Storyteller