Monday, December 21, 2009

Irving Berlin. He Wrote the Songs that Made America Sing.




VOICE ONE:

I’m Phoebe Zimmerman.

VOICE TWO:

And I'm Steve Ember with the VOA Special English program PEOPLE IN AMERICA. Today, we tell about Irving Berlin. He wrote the words and music for some of the most popular songs of the twentieth century.

(MUSIC)

VOICE ONE:

Irving Berlin lived to be one hundred one years old. He died in nineteen eighty‑nine. During his long life, he wrote more than one thousand songs. Many of his songs have become timeless additions to America's popular culture.

Irving Berlin's music helped spread that popular culture throughout the world. Berlin was born in Russia. But he captured the feeling, the people and the customs of his new country. And he put those ideas to music.

Another composer, Jerome Kern, once said of Irving Berlin: "He has no place in American music. He IS American music."

VOICE TWO:

Most American children grow up hearing and singing some of Irving Berlin's songs. Two of the best known are linked to Christian religious holidays. They are "White Christmas" and "Easter Parade."

Many Americans think the perfect Christmas Day on December twenty‑fifth should be cold and snowy. Irving Berlin thought so, too. He wrote "White Christmas" in nineteen thirty‑nine. It was sung in the movie "Holiday Inn" in nineteen forty‑two. "White Christmas" became one of the best‑selling songs of all time. Here is Bing Crosby singing his famous version of "White Christmas."

(MUSIC)

VOICE ONE:­

Irving Berlin's song for the Easter holiday captures another American tradition. "Easter Parade" is about a tradition in New York City. There, on Easter morning, people walk up and down Fifth Avenue after church services to enjoy the spring weather. Women wear new hats and dresses. Berlin wrote the song for a musical play in nineteen thirty‑three. It was the main song in the musical film "Easter Parade" in nineteen forty‑eight. Here is Judy Garland singing "Easter Parade."

(MUSIC)

VOICE TWO:

Irving Berlin was born Israel Baline in eighteen ­eighty‑eight in the Russian village of Temun. He was the youngest of eight children. His family was Jewish. They fled Russia because of religious oppression.

The Baline family came to America in eighteen ninety‑three. They did not have much money. They moved into an area of New York City where many other poor Jewish immigrants had settled when they moved to the United States. Israel's father died when the boy was eight years old. The young boy left his home to find work. First, he got a job helping a blind street singer. Then he began earning money by singing on the streets of New York. Later, he got a job singing while serving people their food in a restaurant. Israel taught himself to play the piano. But he could play only the black keys.

VOICE ONE:

Soon Israel began writing his own songs. He never learned to read or write music. He wrote his songs by playing the notes with one finger on the piano. An assistant wrote down the notes on sheets of paper. When the songwriter's first song was published, his name was spelled wrong. Israel Baline had become I. Berlin. Israel thought the name sounded more American. So he re­named himself Irving Berlin.

Between nineteen twelve and nineteen sixteen, Irving Berlin wrote more than one hundred eighty songs. By the time he was in his late twenties, his songs were famous around the world.

VOICE TWO:

Berlin became an American citizen in nineteen eighteen. A few months later, he was ordered into military service. The United States was fighting in World War One. Berlin was asked to write songs for a musical about life in the military. He called the show "Yip Yip Yaphank." All of the performers in the show were soldiers. Many of the songs became popular.

After he served in the army, Berlin returned to New York. He formed his own music publishing company. He also established a theater for his musical shows near Broadway.

VOICE ONE:

Irving Berlin loved America for giving a poor immigrant a chance to succeed. He expressed his thanks for this success in his songs. One of these songs is "God Bless America." He wrote the song in nineteen eighteen. But it did not become popular until Kate Smith sang it in nineteen thirty‑nine. She sang the song to celebrate Armistice Day, the anniversary of the end of World War One. Many people feel "God Bless America" is the unofficial national song of the United States.

Berlin gave all money he earned from "God Bless America" to the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts of America. Here is Kate Smith singing "God Bless America."

(MUSIC)

VOICE TWO:

The United States entered World War Two in nineteen forty‑one. Berlin agreed to write and produce a musical show called "This is the Army." It was a musical about life in the military. All the performers were soldiers.

The show was performed in many cities across the United States. It helped increase support for America's part in the war. It earned ten million dollars for the Army Emergency Relief Fund. "This is the Army" also was performed for the American troops at military bases around the world. Irving Berlin appeared in most of these performances. He sang the song he had written earlier. The song is about what he had hated most about being in the army. Here, Irving Berlin sings "Oh, How I Hate to Get Up in the Morning."

(MUSIC)

VOICE ONE:

After the war, Berlin continued to write songs for movies and plays. He wrote songs for more than fifteen movies from the nineteen thirties to the nineteen fifties. Many of the songs were used in movies starring the famous dancers Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. Here is Fred Astaire singing a song that appeared in several movies, "Puttin’ on the Ritz."

(MUSIC)

VOICE TWO:

Irving Berlin also wrote the music for seventeen Broadway plays from the nineteen twenties to nineteen fifty. His most successful Broadway musical was “Annie Get Your Gun” in nineteen forty-six. Irving Berlin retired in nineteen sixty-­two after his last Broadway musical, "Mister President," failed. He died in nineteen eighty-nine. But the songs that he gave America will be played and sung for many years to come.

(MUSIC)

VOICE ONE:

This Special English program was written by Shelley Gollust. It was produced by Lawan Davis. Our studio engineer was Sulaiman Tarawaley. I'm Phoebe Zimmerman.

VOICE TWO:

And I'm Steve Ember. Join us again next week for another PEOPLE IN AMERICA program on the Voice of America.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

"The Gift of the Magi" by O. Henry from VOA


A Special Christmas Story: The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry. A husband and wife give each other the most special Christmas gift of all.



ANNOUNCER:

Now, the VOA Special English program, AMERICAN STORIES.

(MUSIC)

We present a special Christmas story called "The Gift of the Magi" by O. Henry. Here is Shep O'Neal with the story.

STORYTELLER:

One dollar and eighty-seven cents. That was all. And sixty cents of it in the smallest pieces of money - pennies. Pennies saved one and two at a time by negotiating with the men at the market who sold vegetables and meat. Negotiating until one's face burned with the silent knowledge of being poor. Three times Della counted it. One dollar and eighty-seven cents. And the next day would be Christmas.

There was clearly nothing to do but sit down and cry. So Della cried. Which led to the thought that life is made up of little cries and smiles, with more little cries than smiles.

Della finished her crying and dried her face. She stood by the window and looked out unhappily at a gray cat walking along a gray fence in a gray back yard. Tomorrow would be Christmas Day, and she had only one dollar and eighty-seven cents to buy her husband Jim a gift. She had been saving every penny she could for months, with this result.

One Dollar and ...

Eighty-seven cents
Jim earned twenty dollars a week, which does not go far. Expenses had been greater than she had expected. They always are. Many a happy hour she had spent planning to buy something nice for him. Something fine and rare -- something close to being worthy of the honor of belonging to Jim.

There was a tall glass mirror between the windows of the room. Suddenly Della turned from the window and stood before the glass mirror and looked at herself. Her eyes were shining, but her face had lost its color within twenty seconds. Quickly she pulled down her hair and let it fall to its full length.

Now, Mister and Missus James Dillingham Young had two possessions which they valued. One was Jim's gold time piece, the watch that had been his father's and his grandfather's. The other was Della's hair.

Had the Queen of Sheba lived in their building, Della would have let her hair hang out the window to dry just to reduce the value of the queen's jewels.

So now Della's beautiful hair fell about her, shining like a brown waterfall. It reached below her knees and made itself almost like a covering for her. And then quickly she put it up again. She stood still while a few tears fell on the floor.

She put on her coat and her old brown hat. With a quick motion and brightness still in her eyes, she danced out the door and down the street.

Where she stopped the sign read: "Madame Sofronie. Hair Goods of All Kinds." Della ran up the steps to the shop, out of breath.

"Will you buy my hair?" asked Della.

"I buy hair," said Madame. "Take your hat off and let us have a look at it."

Down came the beautiful brown waterfall of hair.

"Twenty dollars," said Madame, lifting the hair with an experienced hand.

"Give it to me quick," said Della.

(MUSIC)

The next two hours went by as if they had wings. Della looked in all the stores to choose a gift for Jim.

She found it at last. It surely had been made for Jim and no one else. It was a chain -- simple round rings of silver. It was perfect for Jim's gold watch. As soon as she saw it she knew that it must be for him. It was like him. Quiet and with great value. She gave the shopkeeper twenty-one dollars and she hurried home with the eighty-seven cents that was left.

When Della arrived home she began to repair what was left of her hair. The hair had been ruined by her love and her desire to give a special gift. Repairing the damage was a very big job.

Within forty minutes her head was covered with tiny round curls of hair that made her look wonderfully like a schoolboy. She looked at herself in the glass mirror long and carefully.

"If Jim does not kill me before he takes a second look at me," she said to herself, "he'll say I look like a song girl. But what could I do--oh! what could I do with a dollar and eighty-seven cents?"

At seven o'clock that night the coffee was made and the pan on the back of the stove was hot and ready to cook the meat.

Jim was never late coming home from work. Della held the silver chain in her hand and sat near the door. Then she heard his step and she turned white for just a minute. She had a way of saying a little silent prayer about the simplest everyday things, and now she whispered: "Please God, make him think I am still pretty."

(MUSIC)

The door opened and Jim stepped in. He looked thin and very serious. Poor man, he was only twenty-two and he had to care for a wife. He needed a new coat and gloves to keep his hands warm.

Jim stopped inside the door, as immovable as a dog smelling a bird. His eyes were fixed upon Della. There was an expression in them that she could not read, and it frightened her. It was not anger, nor surprise, nor fear, nor any of the feelings that she had been prepared for. He simply looked at her with a strange expression on his face. Della went to him.

"Jim, my love," she cried, "do not look at me that way. I had my hair cut and sold because I could not have lived through Christmas without giving you a gift. My hair will grow out again. I just had to do it. My hair grows very fast. Say 'Merry Christmas!' Jim, and let us be happy. You do not know what a nice-- what a beautiful, nice gift I have for you."

"You have cut off your hair?" asked Jim, slowly, as if he had not accepted the information even after his mind worked very hard.

"Cut it off and sold it," said Della. "Do you not like me just as well? I am the same person without my hair, right?

Jim looked about the room as if he were looking for something.

"You say your hair is gone?" he asked.

"You need not look for it," said Della. "It is sold, I tell you--sold and gone, too. It is Christmas Eve, boy. Be good to me, for it was cut for you. Maybe the hairs of my head were numbered," she went on with sudden serious sweetness, "but nobody could ever count my love for you. Shall I put the meat on, Jim?"

Jim seemed to awaken quickly and put his arms around Della. Then he took a package from his coat and threw it on the table.

"Do not make any mistake about me, Dell," he said. "I do not think there is any haircut that could make me like my girl any less. But if you will open that package you may see why you had me frightened at first."

White fingers quickly tore at the string and paper. There was a scream of joy; and then, alas! a change to tears and cries, requiring the man of the house to use all his skill to calm his wife.

For there were the combs -- the special set of objects to hold her hair that Della had wanted ever since she saw them in a shop window. Beautiful combs, made of shells, with jewels at the edge --just the color to wear in the beautiful hair that was no longer hers. They cost a lot of money, she knew, and her heart had wanted them without ever hoping to have them. And now, the beautiful combs were hers, but the hair that should have touched them was gone.

But she held the combs to herself, and soon she was able to look up with a smile and say, "My hair grows so fast, Jim!"

Then Della jumped up like a little burned cat and cried, "Oh, oh!"

Jim had not yet seen his beautiful gift. She happily held it out to him in her open hands. The silver chain seemed so bright.

"Isn't it wonderful, Jim? I looked all over town to find it. You will have to look at the time a hundred times a day now. Give me your watch. I want to see how it looks on it."

Instead of obeying, Jim fell on the couch and put his hands under the back of his head and smiled.

"Dell," said he, "let us put our Christmas gifts away and keep them a while. They are too nice to use just right now. I sold my gold watch to get the money to buy the set of combs for your hair. And now, why not put the meat on."

(MUSIC)

The Magi
The magi were wise men--wonderfully wise men--who brought gifts to the Baby Jesus. They invented the art of giving Christmas gifts. Being wise, their gifts were wise ones. And here I have told you the story of two young people who most unwisely gave for each other the greatest treasures of their house. But in a last word to the wise of these days, let it be said that of all who give gifts, these two were the wisest. Everywhere they are wisest. They are the magi.

(MUSIC)

ANNOUNCER:

You have heard the American story "The Gift of the Magi." This story was written by O. Henry and adapted into Special English by Karen Leggett. Your storyteller was Shep O'Neal. The producer was Lawan Davis.

I'm Shirley Griffith.

COMPREHENSION CHECK

1. Jim and Della have very little ____________ .
a. time
b. affection
c. money
d. experience

2. The treasures of their house are Jim's gold watch and ____________ .
a. Della's combs
b. Della's long hair
c. Jim's silver chain
d. Jim's overcoat

3. In order to raise money for Della's gift, Jim ____________ .
a. works overtime
b. sells Della's hair
c. sells her combs
d. sells his gold watch

4. Della had a dollar and eighty-seven cents. 60 of the cents were ____________ .
a. all pennies
b. six dimes
c. a dime and two quarters
d. a quarter, a nickle and three dimes

5. The "Magi" in the story refer to ____________ .
a. meat and vegetable sellers who negotiate
b. wise men who gave gifts to the baby Jesus
c. shepherds who visited the birthplace of Jesus
d. purchasers of watch chains and long flowing hair

6. Neither of the presents Jim and Della gave each other were ___________ .
a. expensive
b. useful
c. important
d. beautiful

7. When Della sold her hair, she was afraid Jim would no longer think ___________ .
a. she was his wife
b. she loved him
c. she was beautiful
d. her hair would grow back

8. Della bought a watch chain. It was the perfect gift for Jim except that _________ .
a. Jim's watch was broken
b. Jim had a wrist watch
c. Jim no longer had a watch
d. Jim had given his watch to a friend

9. Another name for this story could be _______________ .
a. "A Poor Couple in NY"
b. "True Love Matters Most"
c. "The Best Deals for Christmas Shoppers"
d. "The Wisest Gift Givers"

10. This story is a mainly about a young married couple who ____________ .
a. gave with their hearts
b. can't afford Christmas
c. miss the chance to make each other happy
d. struggle to survive in New York

The following is a retelling of the story from Youtube:


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Let's Go On a Safari! From Voice of America

Lions drinking from a river in Chobe National Park




VOICE ONE:

I’m Steve Ember.

VOICE TWO:

And I’m Barbara Klein with EXPLORATIONS in VOA Special English. Today we go on safari to experience the sights and sounds of Africa’s rich wildlife. The word “safari” comes from the Swahili and Arabic words for a trip or journey. Tourists from all over the world go to Africa to enjoy the excitement and wonder of safari explorations.

(MUSIC)

VOICE ONE:

Imagine climbing into an open sided four-wheel drive vehicle early in the morning.

(SOUND)

Your expert guide drives you through the entrance to Chobe National Park in Botswana. All around, you can see the huge pink sky at sunrise. The trees and thick grass move slightly in the wind. Then, suddenly you hear the movement of leaves nearby. A few meters away a huge elephant walks out of the green bushes. He is so close you can see his white ivory tusks and the deep lines in his gray skin. He seems to look right at you, then moves on to continue his search for more food. Welcome to Africa and the excitement of safari.

VOICE TWO:

There are many national parks and game reserves in Africa where you can go on safari. For example, many tourists visit Kruger National Park in the northeastern area of South Africa. This park was established in nineteen twenty-six in an effort to protect the wildlife of South Africa. It has a surface area of almost twenty thousand square kilometers. Many kinds of plants and animals live in Kruger, including the famous “Big Five.” The Big Five are five large animals: the elephant, lion, leopard, rhinoceros and buffalo.

Big game hunters created the term Big Five. For hunters, these five animals were some of the most difficult and dangerous to catch. Many tourists think mainly about seeing the Big Five while on safari. But there are many other interesting, and much smaller, animals as well.

VOICE ONE:

Kruger National Park represents a good example of the many kinds of safaris that are available to visitors. For example, in parks including Kruger, you can rent a car and drive around some areas on your own. There are also wilderness trails for safaris where you walk on a path to see the animals. A guide or ranger comes with you to keep you safe and tell about the animals. There are also mobile safaris where you sleep in a tent. The campsite moves with you as you travel through the park.

Private hotel companies operate some areas of parks such as Kruger. These hotels can be very costly. But many people think it is worth the cost to enjoy fine food and service. After all, it is not every day you can look out of your bedroom window and see a monkey or elephant standing outside.

(MUSIC)

VOICE TWO:

There are several general rules to follow when traveling on safari. For example, most people wear light-colored clothing such as light brown or tan. This is because lighter colors take in less of the strong heat of the sun than dark colors do. Darker color clothes are also more likely to attract mosquitoes. It is also important to wear a hat and sunscreen lotion to protect your skin from being burned by the very hot African sun. Binoculars are also very helpful for seeing animals that are far away.

VOICE ONE:

When you are out in nature it is important to speak softly so as not to frighten the animals away. Also, never try to feed or go near one of the animals. And, if you are in a boat, keep your arms and legs out of the water. You might want to touch the water to cool off. But you never know if a hungry crocodile or other creature is nearby. By following these guidelines you can enjoy a safari that is both safe and exciting.

VOICE TWO:

Tanzania is another country with many parks and game reserves. People who like chimpanzees can visit Gombe Stream National Park on the western border of the country. This is an area of thick forests, ancient trees, and beautiful lakes. Animal expert Jane Goodall made the chimpanzee populations in this area famous. She spent many years studying the behavior of these endangered animals.

A guide can take you deep into the forest. As you sit waiting, you might hear the screams and calls of the chimps coming closer. Chimpanzees share about ninety eight percent of their genes with humans. Their actions and noises can seem very human. Being able to watch these animals playing, eating and communicating with each other in the wild is a special experience to treasure.

(MUSIC)

VOICE ONE:

Chobe National Park in Botswana is another popular place for safari travel. This park is home to one of the largest elephant populations in the world. Mist Setaung is a professional safari guide who often takes visitors through Chobe. Listen as he tells about himself and how he got this exciting job.

A hippopotamus, either yawning or about to eat something.


MIST SETAUNG: “My name is Mist Setaung and I was born and raised in Botswana, a place called Maun which is a gateway to the Okavango delta. To become a guide you actually go through a course. There’s a six-month course of the Department of Wildlife, which is run by the government. Then, after this course you take an exam. My father offered me a job as a trainee guide and I went into the bush. Slowly and surely I started learning and eventually it got into my blood, and I just got devoted to it.”

VOICE TWO:

With a guide like Mist you are guaranteed to see new animals and learn a great deal. One excellent way to see the wildlife of Chobe is by boat. Mist can take you on a boat ride up and down the river so you can see the animals as they come to drink or play in the water.

Hippopotamuses like to stand in the grass and eat most of the day. Or, they enter the water to stay cool. In fact, a hippo can stay under water for up to six minutes. They are very good at hiding in the water. If you look carefully, you can see their two eyes looking out of the water at you. You know they are near when you hear the strange deep noise they make with their nose.

(SOUND)

These animals look too big and fat to be dangerous. But they can be very aggressive and protective of their territory.

VOICE ONE:

Paradise Whydah


If you do not see any big animals near the river, Mist can tell you about birds instead. He can point out the male paradise whydah with its unusually long black tail feathers. Or, he might show you one of many guinea fowl, which he jokingly says are also called “Chobe chickens.” He can even make noises that sound just like the birdcalls.

VOICE TWO:

There are also many smaller animals to watch for. Antelopes of all kinds live in the park. There are gnus or wildebeests with their flat wide faces. Fine-boned impalas walk around as gracefully as dancers. Solid warthogs explore the bush on their short little legs. These strange-looking wild pigs are dark with long yellow tusks coming out of their mouth. They are not very pretty animals. Mist says "they have a face only a mother could love."

Mist can also tell you about conservation efforts to protect wild animals. Some animals such as the black rhinoceros have almost been destroyed because poachers illegally hunt and kill them. Many parks across Africa have had trouble with poachers. In Chobe there is an army camp with workers who make sure that poachers stay away.

VOICE ONE:

It might surprise you that there are too many of some other animals. For example, in parts of Chobe the large elephant population has actually harmed the environment. When elephants eat huge quantities of leaves and grasses, other animals have trouble finding enough food to eat. And, elephants are not gentle eaters. They can tear out trees and bushes as they feed. In the dry season these dead plants can increase the danger of fires.

Chobe elephants at sunset


VOICE TWO:

If you are lucky, you can enjoy sunset while floating down the Chobe River. Yellow and orange colors fill the sky at this hour and are reflected in the water. The sun slowly starts to slip behind the trees. But before it is dark, you see a large movement of gray bodies. Three families of elephants have come to the water's edge.

More than thirty elephants are quietly drinking and eating. There are huge old elephants with large tusks. There are the mothers who lead each family group. Then, there are the babies who play and run around the thick legs of the adult elephants. The elephants look up and watch as your boat turns away and you head back to camp at the end of another day on safari in Africa.

(MUSIC)

VOICE ONE:

This program was written and produced by Dana Demange. I’m Steve Ember.

VOICE TWO:

And I’m Barbara Klein. You can read and listen to this program on our Web site, voaspecialenglish.com. Join us again next week for EXPLORATIONS in VOA Special English.


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Presidency of John F Kennedy, Part Two




VOICE ONE:

This is Rich Kleinfeldt.

VOICE TWO:

And this is Stan Busby with THE MAKING OF A NATION -- a VOA Special English program about the history of the United States.

(MUSIC)

Today, we continue the story of President John Kennedy.

VOICE ONE:

John Kennedy began his administration in nineteen sixty-one with great energy to do good things. After just three months in office, however, he had to take responsibility for a big failure.

On April seventeenth, Cuban exiles, trained by America's Central Intelligence Agency, invaded Cuba. Their goal was to overthrow Cuba's communist leader, Fidel Castro. Most of the exiles were killed or captured.

The last administration had planned the invasion. But Kennedy had approved it. After the incident, some Americans wondered if he had enough experience to lead the nation. Some asked themselves if the forty-three-year-old Kennedy was too young to be president, after all.

VOICE TWO:

Kennedy soon regained some public approval when he visited French leader General Charles de Gaulle. The French were very interested in the new American president. They were even more interested in his beautiful wife. The president said with a laugh that he was the man who had come to Paris with Jacqueline Kennedy.

VOICE ONE:

In Vienna, Kennedy met with Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev. Their relations would always be difficult.

Khrushchev did not want to compromise on any issue. He threatened to have the East Germans block all movement into and out of the western part of the city of Berlin.

Not long after, the East Germans, with Soviet support, built a wall to separate the eastern and western parts of the city. President Kennedy quickly announced a large increase in the number of American military forces in Germany. He said the United States would not permit freedom to end in Berlin.

VOICE TWO:

About a year later, in October, nineteen sixty-two, President Kennedy said the United States had discovered that the Soviets were putting nuclear missiles in Cuba. He took several actions to protest the deployment.

One was to send American ships to the area. They were to prevent Soviet ships from taking missile parts and related supplies to the Cuban government. In a speech broadcast on television, Kennedy spoke about the seriousness of the situation.

JOHN KENNEDY: "It shall be the policy of this nation to regard any nuclear missile launched from Cuba against any nation in the Western Hemisphere as an attack by the Soviet Union on the United States."

VOICE ONE:

No fighting broke out between the United States and the Soviet Union because of the Cuban missile crisis. The Soviet ships carrying missile parts to Cuba turned back. And President Kennedy promised that the United States would not invade Cuba if the Soviet Union removed its missiles and stopped building new ones there.

The two sides did, however, continue their cold war of words and influence.

In Asia, the Soviet Union continued to provide military, economic, and technical aid to communist governments. The Kennedy administration fought communism in Vietnam by increasing the number of American military advisers there.

VOICE TWO:

The United States and the Soviet Union did make some progress on arms control, however. In nineteen sixty-three, the two countries reached a major agreement to ban tests of nuclear weapons above ground, under water, and in space. The treaty did not ban nuclear tests under the ground.

On national issues, President Kennedy supported efforts to guarantee a better life for African-Americans. One man who pushed for changes was his younger brother, Robert. Robert Kennedy was attorney general and head of the Justice Department at that time.

VOICE ONE:

The Justice Department took legal action against Southern states that violated the voting rights acts of nineteen fifty-seven and nineteen sixty. The administration also supported a voter registration campaign among African-Americans. The campaign helped them to record their names with election officials so they could vote.

As attorney general, Robert Kennedy repeatedly called on National Guard troops to protect black citizens from crowds of angry white citizens. Incidents took place when blacks tried to register to vote and when they tried to attend white schools.

VOICE TWO:

President Kennedy said the situation was causing a moral crisis in America. He decided it was time to propose a new civil rights law. The measure would guarantee equal treatment for blacks in public places and in jobs. It would speed the work of ending racial separation in schools.

Kennedy wanted the new legislation badly. But Congress delayed action. It did not pass a broad civil rights bill until nineteen sixty-four, after his presidency.

VOICE ONE:

In November, nineteen sixty-three, Kennedy left Washington for the state of Texas. He hoped to help settle a local dispute in his Democratic Party. The dispute might have affected chances for his re-election in nineteen sixty-four.

He arrived in the city of Dallas in the late morning of November twenty-second. Dallas was known to be a center of opposition to Kennedy. Yet many people waited to see him.

VOICE TWO:

A parade of cars traveled through the streets of Dallas. Kennedy and his wife were in the back seat of one. Their car had no top, so everyone could see them easily. Another car filled with Secret Service security agents was next to the president's.

Suddenly, there were gunshots. Then, many Americans heard this emergency report from television newsman Walter Cronkite:

WALTER CRONKITE: "Here is a bulletin from CBS news. In Dallas, Texas, three shots were fired at President Kennedy's motorcade in downtown Dallas. The first reports say that President Kennedy has been seriously wounded by this shooting."

VOICE ONE:

The cars raced to Parkland Memorial Hospital. But doctors there could do little. Thirty minutes later reporters, including Walter Cronkite, broadcast this announcement:

WALTER CRONKITE: "From Dallas, Texas -- the flash apparently official -- President Kennedy died at one p.m., Central Standard Time. "

(MUSIC)

VOICE TWO:

As the nation mourned, police searched for the person who had killed John Kennedy. They arrested a man named Lee Harvey Oswald. Oswald worked in a building near the place where Kennedy had been shot. People had seen him leave the building after the shooting. He had a gun.

VOICE ONE:

Lee Harvey Oswald was a man with a strange past. He was a former United States Marine. He was also a communist. He had lived for a while in the Soviet Union and had tried to become a Soviet citizen. He worked for a committee that supported the communist government in Cuba.

Police questioned Oswald about the death of president Kennedy. He said he did not do it. After two days, officials decided to move him to a different jail.

VOICE TWO:

As they did, television cameras recorded the death of Lee Harvey Oswald. Oswald was being led by two police officials. Suddenly, a man stepped in front of them. There was a shot, and Oswald fell to the floor.

The gunman was Jack Ruby. He owned an eating and drinking place in Dallas. He said he killed Oswald to prevent the Kennedy family from having to live through a trial.

(MUSIC)

VOICE ONE:

President Kennedy's body had been returned to Washington. After a state funeral, he was buried in Arlington National Cemetery, across the Potomac River. A gas flame burns at his burial place, day and night.

An official committee was formed to investigate his death. It was headed by the chief justice of the United States, earl Warren, and was known as the Warren commission. In its report, the Warren commission said that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. It said there was no plot to kill the president.

VOICE TWO:

Many Americans did not accept the report. They believed there was a plot. Some blamed Cuban leader Fidel Castro. Some blamed extremists in America's Central Intelligence Agency. Others blamed organized crime.

The truth of what happened to John Kennedy may be what was stated in the Warren Commission report: that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. Or, perhaps, the complete truth may never be known.

(MUSIC)

VOICE ONE:

This program of THE MAKING OF A NATION was written by Jeri Watson and produced by Paul Thompson. This is Rich Kleinfeldt.

VOICE TWO:

And this Stan Busby. Join us again next week for another VOA Special English program about the history of the United States.

COMPREHENSION CHECK

1. The nuclear test ban treaty of 1963 permitted nuclear tests to be performed only _____________________ .
a: in space
b: above ground
c: under ground
d: in the water

2. The Cuban Missile Crisis of October, 1962 was avoided because the Soviets didn't try to cross the American blockade, and ________________ .
a: the Americans promised not to attack Soviet shipping
b: the Americans would not object to Soviet missile attacks in South America
c: the American government promised to not invade Cuba again
d: the American government agreed to close the Guatanamo prison.

3. Under John F. Kennedy's administration, the US fought communism in Vietnam by ___________________.
a: sending American troops into battle
b: bombing North Vietnam from the air
c: invading Cambodia
d: increasing the number of American military advisers

4. Robert Kennedy, the attorney general under his brother Jack Kennedy, ______________________ .
a: successfully lobbied Congress to pass a new civil rights law
b: refused to call on the National Guard to protect black citizens threatened by angry southern whites
c: brought legal action against Southern states that violated voting rights laws
d: warned blacks not to try to register for white schools

5. A suspect in the assassination of John F Kennedy was shot by _______________ a local restaurant owner. The occurrence was televised.
a: Lee Harvey Oswald
b: Jack Ruby
c: Fidel Castro
d: Earl Warren

6. The new president, John F Kennedy, made a very positive impression on the French people. This was mostly because of ______________________ .
a: Kennedy's fluent mastery of the French language
b: Kennedy's admiration for French cuisine
c: Jacqueline Kennedy
d: Kennedy's ability to make General Charles de Gaulle laugh until his sides split

7. The Soviet leader, Nikita Kruschchev, often met with John F Kennedy. Krushchev _________________________ .
a: usually agreed with John F. Kennedy
b: did not want to compromise on any issue
c: was difficult to deal with, but genuinely wanted to make deals
d: drank vodka heavily during most negotiations

8. The Warren Commission concluded that _________________________ .
a: Lee Harvey Oswald assassinated John F Kennedy
b: Lee Harvey Oswald was part of a communist plot to kill John F Kennedy
c: Lee Harvey Oswald and Jack Ruby conspired to assassinate Kennedy
d: Lee Harvey Oswald was not Kennedy's killer. A radical American right wing group was responsible

9. One of John Kennedy's first actions as president failed. It was the attempt ____________________ .
a: to overthrow Fidel Castro in Cuba
b: to balance the budget
c: to raise the minimum wage for workers
d: to end the Vietnam War

10. The Berlin Wall erected by East Germany to separate the east and west sides of Berlin caused John F Kennedy ________________________
a: to invade Cuba again
b: to increase the number of military forces in Germany
c: to complain bitterly to the Soviet leader, Nikita Krushchev
d: to resolve the problem with his political party in Dallas, Texas

"The Presidency of John F Kennedy, Part One"





For more Voice of America stories of U.S. History, Click Here!

Monday, November 9, 2009

'West Side Story': Love, Hate and the Immigrant Experience.


VOICE ONE:

Welcome to THIS IS AMERICA in VOA Special English. I'm Steve Ember.

VOICE TWO:

And I'm Shirley Griffith. Today we complete the story and songs from the American musical play "West Side Story."

(MUSIC)

VOICE ONE:

Some of the greatest artists in American musical theater worked together to create "West Side Story" in nineteen fifty-seven. Choreographer and director Jerome Robbins, who developed the idea. Arthur Laurents, who wrote the play's words. And Stephen Sondheim, who wrote the words to the songs.

However, Leonard Bernstein -- who wrote the music -- usually is considered the main creator of "West Side Story. " Although the play is fifty years old this month, his music remains fresh today.

VOICE TWO:

As we said last week, "West Side Story" is a story about young people in a poor part of New York City in the nineteen fifties. Two groups of teenagers fight each other for control of the streets.

The "Jets"
Members of the local gang -- the "Jets" -- were born in New York. They hate the Spanish-speaking people who have begun to move to the city from Puerto Rico. The young Puerto Ricans, members of the "Sharks" gang, hate the Jets in return.

The Puerto Ricans have the mixed feelings of any group of immigrants. They are divided between loving their old home and being glad to have left its problems behind.

The song "America" makes fun of some things in their new land, even as it seems to praise it. The Puerto Rican girls joke that everything is free in America ... if you pay for it. Our music is from the original recording of the play.

(MUSIC)

VOICE ONE:

Seventeen-year-old Maria is the sister of Bernardo, the leader of the Sharks. She has arrived recently from Puerto Rico. She is to marry Chino, another member of the Sharks. But at a dance, Maria falls in love with Tony, a former leader of the enemy gang, the Jets.

Maria and Tony hope the hatred between the gangs will ease. They no longer understand this hatred. But the Jets and Sharks are making plans for a big fight. The Jets want to push the Sharks out of their area.

The gangs agree to fight the next night. They will put the best fighter from the Sharks against the best fighter from the Jets. The winner, and his gang, will take all the street territory.

Maria
VOICE TWO:

The next night, Maria is at home. She is getting dressed to meet Tony. She is very happy and excited. Carol Lawrence sings the part of Maria.

(MUSIC)

Everyone is nervous, waiting for the big fight. Everyone except Maria and Tony. They are waiting only to see each other.

(MUSIC)

VOICE ONE:

The gangs meet for the fight. Tony has promised Maria that he will try to stop it. As he does, the action suddenly turns violent. Tony's friend Riff and Bernardo begin fighting each other with knives.

(MUSIC)

In a moment, Tony's friend Riff is dead -- killed by the brother of the woman Tony loves. Not thinking, Tony strikes back. He kills Bernardo. The gangs run away. Tony stands in horror over the bodies of his friend and Maria's brother.

VOICE TWO:

Maria knows nothing of what has happened. Then Chino, the man she is supposed to marry, goes to her apartment. He tells Maria that her lover has killed her brother. Chino gets a gun. He goes to search for Tony, to kill him.

Maria is praying when Tony climbs in the window of her room. Tony explains that he did not mean to kill her brother. He asks her to forgive him. She does.

Together, Tony and Maria imagine a life free of group hatred. The walls of Maria's room move away, and they dance. For a brief time, Tony and Maria are "somewhere" -- in the peaceful place they imagine. But they both know there will now be war between the gangs.

VOICE ONE:

Tony must hurry away when Maria's friend Anita comes in. Anita is mourning Bernardo, whom she loved. She is angry with Maria for loving Tony. Anita tells Maria that "a boy like that" -- not her own kind -- will only cause her pain. The part of Anita is sung by Chita Rivera.

(MUSIC)

Finally, Maria makes Anita understand that she loves Tony, even though he has killed Bernardo.

(MUSIC)

VOICE TWO:

Anita goes to the Jets' hiding place to warn Tony that the police are looking for him. But the Jets are cruel to her and will not listen to her. They treat her so badly that, finally, she tells a lie in anger. Anita says Maria is dead, killed by Chino. Tony runs into the street, calling for Chino to come kill him, too.

VOICE ONE:

Maria appears. She and Tony hold each other for a moment. There is a shot. Chino has found them. Tony is hit by the bullet. He dies in the street as Maria holds him.

The play has ended sadly, but with some hope: together, the Jets and two Sharks carry Tony's body away. We end with "Somewhere," sung by Carol Lawrence.

(MUSIC)

VOICE TWO:

Our program was produced by Caty Weaver. I'm Shirley Griffith.

VOICE ONE:

And I'm Steve Ember. You can download archives of our programs at voaspecialenglish.com. Join us again next week for THIS IS AMERICA in VOA Special English.

COMPREHENSION CHECK

1. West Side Story is set in ________________ .
a: Shakespeare’s London in the seventeenth century
b: in New York City in the 1950’s
c: in Verona, Italy, in 1343
d: in Toronto, Canada in the 1990’s.

2. Besides Leonard Bernstein, _______________________ .
a: no one else created West Side Story
b: Arthur Laurents and Stephen Sondheim created West Side Story
c: Elvis Crespo helped create West Side Story
d: Daddy Yankee created music for West Side Story.

3. The Puerto Rican teenagers who form the Sharks gang _________________ .
a: hate America and want to destroy it
b: love America without condition
c: love America but see the negative as well as the positive
d: don’t live in America.

4. Maria ___________________________ .
a: is an influential member of the Puerto Rican National Assembly 
b: decides to marry Tony instead of Chino
c: decides to marry Chino because her brother orders her to
d: is sick and tired of her brother Bernardo.

5. Riff and Bernardo fight _______________________ .
a: with knives 
b: with guns
c: with forks
d: with spoons

6. In the winner take all death match, ______________________ .
a: Riff kills Bernardo 
b: Riff injures Bernardo
c: Riff runs away from Bernardo
d: Bernardo kills Riff.

7. When Tony sees Riff on the ground, _____________________ .
a:  he helps him to his feet
b: he congratulates Bernardo for defeating Riff
c: he kills Bernardo
d: calls the police on his cell phone.

8. Chino then ____________________________ .
a: calls his lawyer 
b: gets a gun and goes looking for Tony
c: drives Maria to Atlantic City, New Jersey, where the couple are married
d: organizes a street protest.

9.Maria’s friend Anita falsely states that __________________ .
a: Tony has married Maria
b: Chino has married Maria
c: Chino has killed Maria
d: Maria has killed Chino and Tony

10. At the end of the play, ________________ .
a: everyone returns to life because it was just a bad dream
b: Maria’s lover Tony and her brother Bernardo are both dead
c: Anita marries Chino
d: the Jets and the Sharks agree to play a basketball game for charity.

11. The theme of "West Side Story" and Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet" is that "_______ ".
a: Hatred causes violence between human beings
b: Love transcends racial and family differences
c: Street warfare leads to international warfare
d: Lovers don't need other people

"America" from "West Side Story" by Leonard Bernstein




West Side Story, Part One

Compare "West Side Story" to its source, Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet"

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

How 'West Side Story' Gave "Romeo and Juliet" a New Home in America.




VOICE ONE:

Welcome to THIS IS AMERICA in VOA Special English. I'm Steve Ember.

VOICE TWO:

And I'm Shirley Griffith.

Today and next week we bring you the story and songs from the American musical play "West Side Story."

(MUSIC)

VOICE ONE:

"West Side Story" opened fifty years ago this month, in New York's Winter Garden Theater. It was an immediate hit and played there for almost two years. Since then, it has been performed in many other theaters in the United States and in other countries. And millions of people have seen the motion picture version released in nineteen sixty-one.

It is possible, however, to enjoy "West Side Story" without having seen the play or movie. For it is the music of composer Leonard Bernstein that is most famous.

VOICE TWO:

Choreographer and director Jerome Robbins developed the idea for "West Side Story" about fifty-five years ago.

Most musicals of that time were not serious plays. They were written and performed purely for enjoyment. Robbins wanted to create a different kind of dance-musical. It would mix real social conflicts into a dream-like work of art. His idea was to make a modern American version of the great tragic play "Romeo and Juliet" by William Shakespeare.

In that play, two innocent teenagers, Romeo and Juliet, fall in love. But their powerful families are old, bitter enemies. They will not give up their hatred of each other. This leads to the deaths of several of their children, including Romeo and Juliet.

Jerome Robbins' idea was to make a musical play about the hatred between Americans of different cultures. He and Leonard Bernstein decided to base the play on the tensions caused by the immigration of Puerto Ricans to New York City.

Arthur Laurents wrote the words to the play. And Stephen Sondheim wrote the words to the songs.

Puerto Rico is an island commonwealth of the United States in the Caribbean. In the nineteen fifties, many Puerto Ricans were moving from their island to the west side of New York. They spoke Spanish. Their culture was different. Some native New Yorkers felt threatened by these new people in town.

The story takes place at the end of summer. We are introduced to two groups of teenagers. These two gangs are fighting for control of the streets. The local gang -- the "Jets" -- has long battled with the Puerto Rican gang -- the "Sharks." Now, the Jets want to push the Sharks out of their part of the city.

VOICE TWO:

Our first song is sung by the actors who appeared in the first production of the play. In the song, the Jets declare that anyone who is a member of their gang -- a Jet -- is always a Jet. Loyalty to the gang is more important than anything else.

(MUSIC)

Tony is a past leader of the Jets. But he no longer believes much in the gang. He is beginning to imagine a life outside the gang's territory. In this song, Tony senses that something new and important is about to happen to him. The part of Tony is sung by Larry Kert.

(MUSIC)

VOICE ONE:

Now, the action turns to the Puerto Rican gang, the Sharks. Bernardo is leader of the Sharks. His seventeen-year-old sister, Maria, has just arrived from Puerto Rico. She has been brought to New York to be married. Her family expects her to marry Chino, another member of the Sharks.

That night, there is a dance. Both the Jets and the Sharks attend.

(MUSIC)

VOICE TWO:

The dance takes place at a neighborhood center -- neutral territory. The situation is tense, even threatening. The gangs dance in their own groups. Then the boy, Tony, and the girl, Maria, see each other across the room. They meet. They dance together. They are from enemy gangs, different cultures. Yet they know, immediately, that they want to be together.

Suddenly, Bernardo -- Maria's brother -- sees them. He is angry to see Maria talking with a member of the Jets. He sends her home.

VOICE ONE:

Tony leaves, too. He tries to find where Maria lives. He sings as he walks.

(MUSIC)

Tony finds the apartment building where Maria lives with her family. He calls to her window. She comes out quietly to the metal fire escape. Maria can stay for only a few minutes. She and Tony declare their love for each other. Then she must hurry inside. Carol Lawrence sings the part of Maria.

(MUSIC)

VOICE TWO:

It is now very late at night. The Jets and Sharks are about to meet with members of their own gang to plan a big fight, a "rumble." The gang that loses the fight will be forced to leave the area to the winning gang.

The play has begun to move toward its tragic ending. That will be our program next week -- the final part of "West Side Story. " We close now with the song "Tonight," sung by Maria as she and Tony say goodnight.

(MUSIC)

VOICE ONE:

Our program was produced by Caty Weaver. I'm Steve Ember.

VOICE TWO:

And I'm Shirley Griffith. You can download archives of our programs at voaspecialenglish.com. Join us next week for THIS IS AMERICA in VOA Special English.

COMPREHENSION CHECK

1. 1. The director and choreographer of West Side Story was _________ .
a: Leonard Bernstein
b: Muhammed Ali
c: Jerome Robbins
d: The Shark
 
2. West Side Story opened originally in ____________________ .
a: Los Angeles
b: Chicago
c: Puerto Rico
d: New York City.
 
3. West Side Story is based on
a: William Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet”
b: Madonna’s “Like a Virgin”
c: Brittany Spears’ “Oops, I Did It Again”
d: Ernest Hemingway’s “The Sun Also Rises”.
 
4. Leonard Bernstein decided to _______________________________ .
a: invest money in West Side Story
b: criticize Jerome Robbins for causing social problems
c: write the music for West Side Story
d: move to Puerto Rico and become the Sugar King
 
5. At the beginning of the play, native New Yorker and immigrant Puerto Rican teenage gangs ________________________ .
a: are struggling for control of their neighborhood streets 
b: are teaching each other their native languages
c: are planning to sail a boat together to China
d: want to form an amateur baseball league.
 
6. Tony, Bernardo, Chino, and Maria _______________________ .
a: are members of the Jets gang 
b: are members of the Sharks gang
c: are the main characters in the story
d: want to live in Albuquerque
 
 
 
 
 
7. At the neighborhood dance,Tony and Maria are ________________________ .
a: introduced to each other formally by Bernardo 
b: attracted to each other from across the room
c: elected King and Queen of the dance
d: unable to see each other because they are both blind
 
8. Tony follows Maria home ______________________________ .
a: because he found her valuable gold watch 
b: because he has fallen in love with her and needs to talk to her
c: because Bernardo asked him to eat dinner with their family
d: because he is homeless
 
9.The Jets and Sharks decide to “rumble”, ________________________ .
a: to dance the mambo, la quebradita, and la lambada at the same time
b: to turn their radios as loud as they can go to the same rock and roll music station
c: to have a mass gang fight in the streets
d: to make love from sunset to dawn
 
10.The gang that loses the rumble must ________________________ .
a: give up control of the streets to the winning gang
b: prepare a big meal for the winning gang
c: buy machine guns and exterminate all the members of the winning gang
d: write a love song to Maria

"Tonight" from "West Side Story" by Leonard Bernstein




West Side Story, Part Two


Monday, October 26, 2009

A Scary Story to Get You Into the Halloween Spirit



VOICE ONE:

Welcome to THIS IS AMERICA in VOA Special English. I'm Faith Lapidus.

VOICE TWO:

And I'm Barbara Klein. October thirty-first, this coming Saturday, is Halloween. Millions of children will dress as ghosts, witches, skeletons, superheroes, princesses -- all sorts of costumes.

VOICE ONE:

Then, with parents usually nearby, they will walk through their neighborhoods. They will go door to door, yelling "trick or treat." This threat of a trick, all in good fun, quickly brings a treat, usually some candy. Then the trick-or-treaters will go off to the next house.

VOICE TWO:

But, you know, there is a reason people in ancient times were careful to honor evil spirits and the dead with a night of their own. The masks that people wore on All Hallows' Eve were meant to hide their identity, so they would avoid a most frightful trick. But now, do you want to know a story that is even scarier than that?

VOICE ONE:

Do you mean the story of my mother? That story? It makes me shake just to think about it!

(SOUND)

VOICE TWO:

Faith's mother lived in a small town in New York State when she was a girl. The fall season was beautiful in the Adirondack Mountains, but it was very cold at night.

VOICE ONE:

There was a girl named Arial at my mother's school. She was popular but not very nice. She told stories about people. She ruined them with her gossip.

Missus Hart was a very kind teacher at the school. Everyone liked her.

VOICE TWO:

"Class ... "

VOICE ONE:

she said one morning early in the new school year,

VOICE TWO:

"... we have a new student, Pearl Dew from Kentucky. Please welcome her."

VOICE ONE:

Arial saw an easy victim in Pearl. And my mother says Pearl was very strange. She was so thin and her skin was so white you could almost see through it. She had long black hair. It reached so far down her back, she had to bring it around the front so she would not sit on it. She did not look healthy.

VOICE TWO:

Arial did not help the situation for Pearl, did she? No, she made the situation worse. Soon terrible stories about Pearl and her family were going around the school. Kids were saying that her father had murdered a family of five back in the hills of Kentucky, but got away with it.

VOICE ONE:

Yes, Arial started that rumor. She said Pearl's father had buried them deep in the wilds of the mountains, so their bodies were never found. No one could prove he killed them. Arial also told a lie about Pearl's mother. She said the mother knew about the murders and could not live with the truth, so one night she threw herself off a mountain.

Everyone believed Arial. They all knew that Pearl did not have a mother.

VOICE THREE:

"She fell by accident. She loved walking in the hills. She would never leave me. It was an accident. My father's not a murderer. That family -- he didn't even know them. No one knows what happened to them. Why do you say these things, Arial? Please, stop. What did I ever do to you?"

VOICE TWO:

When Pearl would ask her to stop, Arial would just laugh. Or she would act frightened. "Don't get your Dad after me, Pearl," she would say.

VOICE ONE:

Yes, although Pearl's father was apparently not the threat that Arial needed to worry about.

Weeks went by, and October came. People put pumpkins on their porches and hung skeletons or ghostly shapes on their front doors.

The children at school noticed a slow change in Pearl that month. She began to talk a little more. Sometimes you might see a little smile, or hear a quiet laugh. In late October, she sent out twelve invitations for a Halloween party. My mother got one. So did several of her friends. Pearl even invited their teacher.

VOICE TWO:

But not Arial?

VOICE ONE:

No, no, not after all that torture Pearl had to suffer from Arial.

VOICE TWO:

But Arial did not understand that reasoning. She was angry. In fact, it was the first time anyone saw her speechless. She was so filled with rage, she could not put a sentence together.

VOICE ONE:

But that did not last long. Arial told my mother that she planned on attending the party anyway. She said she did not need an invitation.

The night of the party was cold enough that you could see your breath. My mother dressed as a ghost, so she could wear a heavy coat under her white sheet. It was difficult to get to Pearl's house. She and her father lived in an old house in the valley of a mountain. There was a footpath, but parts of it got a little rough.

VOICE TWO:

But they all got there safely?

VOICE ONE:

Well no. They never got to the party at all. My mother said all the guests first met at her house. They decided it would be best to walk to the party as a group. So they started along, dressed as witches and zombies and the like. It was fun, she said, playing little tricks to scare each other along the way. The group entered the woods near Pearl's house. The kids were excited, happy to be going to a party. They could see the lights in Pearl's house in the distance below.

VOICE TWO:

So what happened?

VOICE ONE:

Well, the kids and Missus Hart, their teacher, saw a woman ahead of them walking very close to the edge of the path. Missus Hart quickly reacted.

TEACHER:

"Oh my god -- she's going to fall! We have to warn her. Miss! MISS! Run ahead, kids. Oh, no!"

VOICE ONE:

It was too late. The woman went over the edge. Yet she did not fall. She was floating in the air. She had her arms held out.

WOMAN:

"Come to me, child, come to me, my little girl."

VOICE ONE:

All of a sudden two girls come crashing out of the woods and across the path. The girl in front is clearly Pearl. Her black hair is flowing like wings of a dark angel. But who is she pulling behind her?

TEACHER:

"Pearl, STOP! You'll fall off the cliff. You'll kill yourself. Who is that with you? PEARL!!

VOICE ONE:

Pearl stops and looks toward the floating woman.

WOMAN:

"Come to me, child. Come to me, my Pearl."

VOICE ONE:

My mother shined her flashlight at Pearl and the girl behind her. And there for an instant a look of insane fear stared back at the group from the face of Arial.

(SCREAMS)

VOICE ONE:

Well, after that night, no one ever found any sign of Pearl or Arial. Pearl's father also disappeared that night. The house had been decorated for a party that never took place.

(SOUND)

At the cemetery in town, there are headstones for Pearl and Ariel in graves that hold no remains. My mother says she visits sometimes when she goes back to her hometown. She told me that the last time she was there, she noticed something for the first time. If you mix around the letters of Arial's name -- spelled A-R-I-A-L -- it spells "a liar."

(MUSIC)

VOICE TWO:

Our program was written and produced by Caty Weaver. I'm Barbara Klein.

VOICE ONE:

And I'm Faith Lapidus. Transcripts and podcasts of our programs can be found at voaspecialenglish.com. Join us again next week for THIS IS AMERICA in VOA Special English.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Voice of America Presents, "The Way People Communicate Has Changed Over Time."

The Telegraph



VOICE ONE:

I’m Barbara Klein.

VOICE TWO:

And I’m Steve Ember with EXPLORATIONS in VOA Special English. Today, we begin a series of three programs about the Information Age. Our first program tells about the history of communications.

(MUSIC)

VOICE ONE:

Communicating information always has been extremely important. Throughout history, some information has had value beyond measure. The lack of information often costs huge amounts of money and, sometimes, many lives.

The Battle of New Orleans
One example of this took place near New Orleans, Louisiana. Britain and the United States were fighting the War of Eighteen Twelve. The Battle of New Orleans is a famous battle. As in all large battles, hundreds of troops were killed or wounded.

After the battle, the Americans and the British learned there had been no need to fight. Negotiators for the United States and Britain had signed a peace treaty in the city of Ghent, Belgium, two weeks earlier. Yet news of the treaty had not reached the United States before the opposing troops met in New Orleans. The battle had been a terrible waste. People died because information about the peace treaty traveled so slowly.

VOICE TWO:

From the beginning of human history, information traveled only as fast as a ship could sail. Or a horse could run. Or a person could walk.

People experimented with other ways to send messages. Some people tried using birds to carry messages. Then they discovered it was not always a safe way to send or receive information.

A faster method finally arrived with the invention of the telegraph. The first useful telegraphs were developed in Britain and the United States in the eighteen thirties.

The telegraph was the first instrument used to send information using wires and electricity. The telegraph sent messages between two places that were connected by telegraph wires. The person at one end would send the information. The second person would receive it.

Each letter of the alphabet and each number had to be sent separately by a device called a telegraph key. The second person would write each letter on a piece of paper as it was received. Here is what it sounds like. For our example we will only send you three letters: VOA. We will send it two times. Listen closely.

(SOUND)

VOICE ONE:

In the eighteen fifties, an expert with a telegraph key could send about thirty-five to forty words in a minute. It took several hours to send a lot of information. Still, the telegraph permitted people who lived in cities to communicate much faster. Telegraph lines linked large city centers. The telegraph soon had a major influence on daily life.

The telegraph provided information about everything. Governments, businesses and individuals used the telegraph to send information. At the same time, newspapers used the telegraph to get information needed to tell readers what was happening in the world. Newspapers often were printed four or five times a day as new information about important stories was received over the telegraph. The telegraph was the quickest method of sending news from one place to another.

VOICE TWO:

On August fifth, eighteen fifty-eight, the first message was transmitted by a wire cable under the Atlantic Ocean. The wire linked the United States and Europe by telegraph. This meant that a terrible mistake like the battle of New Orleans would not happen again.

Reports of daily news events in Europe began to appear in American newspapers. And news of the United States appeared in European newspapers. Information now took only a matter of hours to reach most large cities in the world. This was true for the big cities linked by the telegraph. However, it was different if you lived in a small farming town, kilometers away from a large city. The news you got might be a day or two late. It took that long for you to receive your newspaper.

(SOUND: KDKA first broadcast)

VOICE ONE:

On November second, nineteen twenty, radio station KDKA in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania broadcast the first radio program. That broadcast gave the results of a presidential election.

Within a few short years, news and information could be heard anywhere a radio broadcast could reach. Radios did not cost much. So most people owned at least one radio. Radio reporters began to speak to the public from cities where important events were taking place.

Political leaders also discovered that radio was a valuable political tool. It permitted them to talk directly to the public. If you had a radio, you did not have to wait until your newspaper arrived. You could often hear important events as they happened.

VOICE TWO:

Some people learned quickly that information meant power. In the nineteen thirties, many countries began controlling information. The government of Nazi Germany is a good example.

Adolph Hitler, German Chancellor, 1930s
Before and during World War Two, the government of Nazi Germany controlled all information the German people received. The government controlled all radio broadcasts and newspapers. The people of Germany only heard or read what the government wanted them to hear or read. It was illegal for them to listen to a foreign broadcast.

VOICE ONE:

After World War Two, a new invention appeared -- television. In industrial nations, television quickly became common in most homes. Large companies were formed to produce television programs. These companies were called networks. Networks include many television stations linked together that could broadcast the same program at the same time.

Most programs were designed to entertain people. There were movies, music programs and game programs. However, television also broadcast news and important information about world events. It broadcast some education programs, too. The number of radio and television stations around the world increased. It became harder for a dictator to control information.

(MUSIC)

VOICE TWO:

In the nineteen fifties, two important events took place that greatly affected the communication of information. The first was a television broadcast that showed the East Coast and the West Coast of the United States at the same time. A cable that carried the pictures linked the two coasts. So people watching the program saw the Pacific Ocean on the left side of the screen. They saw the Atlantic Ocean on the right side of the screen.

It was not a film. People could see two reporters talk to each other even though a continent separated them. Modern technology made this possible.

VOICE ONE:

The other event happened on September twenty-fifth, nineteen fifty-six. That was when the first telephone cable under the Atlantic Ocean made it possible to make direct telephone calls from the United States to Europe. Less than six years later, in July, nineteen sixty-two, the first communications satellite was placed in orbit around the Earth. The speed of information greatly increased again.

VOICE TWO:

By the year nineteen hundred, big city newspapers could provide people with information that was only hours old. Now, both radio and television, with the aid of satellite communications, could provide information immediately. People who lived in a small village could listen to or watch world events as they happened.

A good example is when American astronaut Neil Armstrong became the first person to walk on the moon. Millions of people around the world watched as he carefully stepped onto the moon on July twentieth, nineteen sixty-nine.

People in large cities, small towns and villages saw the event as it was happening. There was no delay in communicating this important information.

VOICE ONE:

A few years after Neil Armstrong stepped on the moon, the United States Department of Defense began an experiment. That experiment led to a system that could send huge amounts of information around the world in seconds. Experts called it the beginning of the Information Age. The story of that experiment will be our report next week on EXPLORATIONS.

(MUSIC)

VOICE TWO:

This program was written by Paul Thompson. It was produced by Mario Ritter. I’m Steve Ember.

VOICE ONE:

And I’m Barbara Klein. You can read scripts and download audio on our Web site, voaspecialenglish.com. Join us again next week for EXPLORATIONS in VOA Special English.

COMPREHENSION CHECK

1. In 490 BC, the city of Athens, Greece learned of the Greek victory over the Persians at the port town of Marathon because _____________________ .
a: they saw the event on television
b: they learned of the event by telegraph
c: a bird was sent to Athens with a message tied to its left talon
d: a messenger ran for twenty five miles to deliver the news

2. The following innovation created the fastest speed of information: _______________________ .
a: the first telephone cable was placed under the atlantic ocean
b: the first communications satellite was placed in orbit
c: the first marathon race was held in San Francisco
d: a cable carrying TV signals was stretched coast to coast

3. After radio and television stations around the world increased, ________________________ .
a: Adolph Hitler became more famous
b: it became harder for a dictator to control information
c: Joseph Stalin tuned in to Voice of America
d: Dwight Eisenhower's wife decided to play the piano professionally

4. The invention of the telegraph greatly increased the ____________________ business.
a: cell phone
b: newspaper
c: stage coach
d: local farm

5. A government that controls all of a country's sources of information can ______________ .
a: become very powerful
b: become a source for free speech
c: be easily overthrown
d: be vulnerable to attack

6. The decline of support for the Vietnam War in the 1960s can be attributed to ____________________ that war.
a: telegraph messages about
b: radio broadcasts about
c: telephone conversations about
d: television coverage about

7. The first radio broadcast in 1920 _____________________________ .
a: was a commercial
b: was a soap opera
c: gave the results of a presidential election
d: was a situation comedy

8. Many soldiers died in the Battle of New Orleans _____________________ .
a: after a peace treaty had been signed
b: before a peace treaty had been signed
c: on the same day as the signing of a peace treaty
d: because they disagreed with the peace treaty

9. The telegraph would not have been possible without the invention of ________________ .
a: electricity
b: steam ships
c: locomotive
d: wind turbines

10. A family living in a rural part of the United States before 1920 would probably hear that day's news ___________________ .
a: the same day
b: two days later
c: a few hours later
d: in a couple of months

This is a 1939 film introducing the new communication devise called television. It was made by RCA.



"The Information Age, Part Two"