Promises can be made about almost anything. From promising to be a knight of God, to promising to talk about sex… to promising to stay together until death do us part. In this show, eight different promises are made. Some are kept, many are broken. But even when broken, these promises changed something. Because even a failed promise has the power to change the world.

Host: Nina Foushee

Producers: Nina Foushee, Hadley Reid, Christy Hartman

Featuring: Nina Foushee, Will Hamilton, Liz Matus, Professor Jorah Dannenberg, Hadley Reid, Don Reid, Holly Russell, and Matt Rothe

Release Date: 16 July 2014

Music used during transitions: Chris Zabriskie, Kevin MacLeod, A Smile for Timbuctu, The Kyoto Connection

image via flickr


Intro Story: Nina, from Tucson

Nina tells the story of a promise she made to remember where she comes from, Tucson Arizona.

Producers: Nina Foushee and Christy Hartman

Featuring: Nina Foushee

Music: Chris Zabriskie

Image courtesy of Nina Foushee


Story 1: Knight of God

At the age of 13, Stanford Junior Will Hamilton made a promise to Pir Vilayat Khan. He’s the former spiritual leader of Sufism.

Producer: Nina Foushee

Featuring: Will Hamilton

Music: Arizono Kazuhiro, The Chicago Modern Orchestra Project, Marty Erlich, and Kei Engel

Image via wikipedia


Story 2: A Cold Walk

Stanford Senior, Liz Matus makes a promise to herself after a cold winter walk across her hometown of Cedar Rapids.

Recorded at Activist Story Night at the Haas Center for Public Service in March, 2014

Featuring: Liz Matus

Image courtesy of Liz Matus


Story 3: Ella

Stanford Philosophy Professor Jorah Dannanburg reveals a promise he made to care for an enormous dog named Ella– A mastiff who likes to eat shoes and couches.

Producer: Nina Foushee

Featuring: Jorah Dannenberg

Music: Podington Bear


Story 4: ‘Til Death

Hadley Reid tells us about a time when wedding vows were only the beginning of another promise.

Producer: Hadley Reid

Featuring: Don Reid PhD 1981 and Holly Russell 1978

Music: Chris Zabriskie, Edoardo Romani Capelo

Image courtesy of Holly Russell


Story 5: How the Tractor Ruined Farming

Matt Rothe, a lecturer at Stanford, shares two broken promises. One’s an unspoken societal promise. The other’s the promise of technology, specifically, the tractor.

Producer: Erik Olesund, MSc 2014

Featuring: Matt Rothe, MBA 2007, Lecturer at the School of Earth Sciences and at the (Hasso Plattner Institute of Design)

Music: Antony Raijekov, Blear Moon, Chris Zabriskie, Mountain Range), Jason Shaw, Arizono Kazuhiro

Image courtesy of Matt Rothe


Control : The Stanford Prison Experiment

In 1971, Dr. Philip Zimbardo created a mock prison in the basement of Jordan Hall, the psychology building at Stanford. Mentally healthy college students were randomly assigned the roles of prisoner and guard. Dr. Zimbardo was trying to test how situations control human behavior, but within days, the situation spun out of control.


In this special episode, Drs. Philip Zimbardo and Christina Maslach tell the story of what ended up being one of the most infamous psychology studies in history – where young, mentally healthy participants turned brutal and desperate in only a few days. You’ll learn surprising details of what inspired the Stanford Prison Experiment and how it ended, and hear how the experiment helped contribute to understanding the relationship between individuals and the situations they find themselves in.

Host: Bojan Srbinovski

Producers: Rachel Hamburg, Bojan Srbinovski, Mischa Shoni, Charlie Mintz, Natacha Ruck, Victoria Hurst

Featuring: Dr. Philip Zimbardo, Dr. Christina Maslach

Additional production help from: Justine Beed, Kate Nelson, Will Rogers

Original Music by Rob Voigt

Other music: Chris Zabriskie, Billy Gomberg, Gillicuddy, Tearpalm

Audio clips of the Stanford and Toyon Prison Experiments are from The Philip G. Zimbardo Papers at the Stanford University ArchivesThe Philip G. Zimbardo Papers at the Stanford University Archives.


Note: The original version of this episode mis-identified the location of the pilot study that inspired the Prison Experiment. The Stanford Storytelling Project regrets this error.


Photo credit: Chuck Painter