Sunday, August 28, 2011

Jesse Owens. He Was Fast On His Feet. (You better believe it.)

GWEN OUTEN: This is Gwen Outen.

STEVE EMBER: And this is Steve Ember with People in America in VOA Special English. Every week we tell about a person who was important in the history of the United States. Today we tell the story of athlete Jesse Owens. He once was the fastest runner in the world.


GWEN OUTEN: In the summer of nineteen thirty-six, people all over the world heard the name of Jesse Owens. That summer, Owens joined the best athletes from fifty nations to compete in the Olympic games. They met in Berlin, Germany. There was special interest in the Olympic games that year.

Gottfried von Cramm,
German tennis star
Adolf Hitler was the leader of Germany. Hitler and his Nazi party believed that white people -- especially German people – were the best race of people on Earth. They believed that other races of people -- especially those with dark skin -- were almost less than human.

In the summer of nineteen thirty-six, Hitler wanted to prove his beliefs to the world. He wanted to show that German athletes could win every important competition. After all, only a few weeks before the Olympics, German boxer Max Schmeling had defeated the great American heavyweight Joe Louis, a black man.

STEVE EMBER: Jesse Owens was black, too. Until nineteen thirty-six, very few black athletes had competed in the Olympics for the United States. Owens was proud to be on the team. He was very sure of his ability.

JESSE OWENS: “I think that this week is very sufficient for the boys on the United States Olympic team for the simple reason because we have been through a series of preliminary events in our country. And the training here that we are getting here is just a little tune-up for the Olympic games. Our hard training is really over. And the rain here is something that is going to help our team quite a bit because some of the boys has a tendency to work a little bit too hard. And I think that the rain is doing a good to slack up the training a bit.”

(1936 interview with Jesse Owens for German radio, from

STEVE EMBER: Owens spent one week competing in four different Olympic track and field events in Berlin. During that time, he did not think much about the color of his skin, or about Adolf Hitler.

Owens said later: "I was looking only at the finish line. I thought of all the years of practice and competition, and of all who believed in me."

GWEN OUTEN: We do not know what Hitler thought of Jesse Owens. No one recorded what he said about this black man who ran faster and jumped farther than any man of any color at the Olympic games. But we can still see Jesse Owens as Hitler saw him. For at Hitler's request, motion pictures were made of the Berlin Olympic games.

The films show Jesse Owens as a thin, but powerfully-built young man with smooth brown skin and short hair. When he ran, he seemed to move without effort. When he jumped, as one observer said, he seemed to jump clear out of Germany.

Jesse Owens won the highest award -- the Gold Medal -- in all four of the Olympic competitions he entered. In the one-hundred meter run, he equaled the fastest time ever run in that Olympic event. In the long jump and the two-hundred meter run, he set new Olympic records. And as part of a four-man team, he helped set a new world record for the four-hundred meter relay race. He was the first American in the history of Olympic track and field events to win four Gold Medals in a single Olympics.

STEVE EMBER: Owens' Olympic victories made him a hero. He returned home to parades in New York City and Columbus, Ohio, where he attended the state university. Businessmen paid him for the right to use his name on their stores. No one, however, offered him a permanent job.

For many years after the nineteen thirty-six Olympic games, Jesse Owens survived as best he could. He worked at small jobs. He even used his athletic abilities, but in a sad way. He earned money by running races against people, motorcycles and horses. He and his wife and three daughters saw both good times and bad times.


GWEN OUTEN: Poverty was not new to James Cleveland Owens. He was born in nineteen thirteen on a farm in the southern state of Alabama. He was the youngest of thirteen children. His parents did not own the farm, and earned little money. Jesse remembered that there was rarely enough food to eat. And there was not enough fuel to heat the house in winter.

Some of Jesse’s brothers and sisters died while still young. Jesse was a sickly child. Partly because of this, and partly because of the racial hatred they saw around them, Jesse’s parents decided to leave the South. They moved north, to Cleveland, Ohio, when Jesse was eight years old. The large family lived in a few small rooms in a part of the city that was neither friendly nor pleasant to look at.

Jesse’s father was no longer young or strong. He was unable to find a good job. Most of the time, no one would give him any work at all. But Jesse’s older brothers were able to get jobs in factories. So life was a little better than it had been in the South.

STEVE EMBER: Jesse, especially, was lucky. He entered a school where one white teacher, Charles Riley, took a special interest in him. Jesse looked thin and unhealthy, and Riley wanted to make him stronger. Through the years that Jesse was in school, Riley brought him food in the morning. Riley often invited the boy to eat with his family in the evening. And every day before school, he taught Owens how to run like an athlete.

At first, the idea was only to make the boy stronger. But soon Riley saw that Jesse was a champion. By the time Jesse had completed high school, his name was known across the nation. Ohio State University wanted him to attend college there. While at Ohio State, he set new world records in several track and field events. And he was accepted as a member of the United States Olympic team.


GWEN OUTEN: Owens always remembered the white man who helped change his life. Charles Riley did not seem to care what color a person's skin was. Owens learned to think the same way.

Later in life, Owens put all his energy into working with young people. He wanted to tell them some of the things he had learned about life, work and success: That it is important to choose a goal and always work toward it. That there are good people in the world who will help you to reach your goal. That if you try again and again, you will succeed.

People who heard Owens's speeches said he spoke almost as well as he ran. Owens received awards for his work with boys and girls. The United States government sent him around the world as a kind of sports ambassador. The International Olympic Committee asked for his advice.


STEVE EMBER: In about nineteen seventy, Jesse Owens wrote a book in which he told about his life. It was called “Blackthink.” In the book, Owens denounced young black militants who blamed society for their troubles. He said young black people had the same chance to succeed in the United States as white people. Many black civil rights activists reacted angrily to these statements. They said what Owens had written was not true for everyone.

Owens later admitted that he had been wrong. He saw that not all blacks were given the same chances and help that he had been given. In a second book, Owens tried to explain what he had meant in his first book. He called it “I Have Changed.” Owens said that, in his earlier book, he did not write about life as it was for everyone, but about life as it was for him.

He said he truly wanted to believe that if you think you can succeed--- and you really try -- then you have a chance. If you do not think you have a chance, then you probably will fail. He said these beliefs had worked for him. And he wanted all young people to believe them, too.

GWEN OUTEN: These were the same beliefs he tried to express when he spoke around the world about being an Olympic athlete. "The road to the Olympics," he said, "leads to no city, no country. It goes far beyond New York or Moscow, ancient Greece or Nazi Germany. The road to the Olympics leads -- in the end -- to the best within us.”

In nineteen seventy-six, President Gerald Ford awarded Jesse Owens the Medal of Freedom. This is the highest honor an American civilian can receive. Jesse Owens died of cancer in nineteen eighty. His family members operate the Jesse Owens Foundation. It provides financial aid and support for young people to help them reach their goals in life.


STEVE EMBER: This program was written by Barbara Dash. It was produced by Lawan Davis. This is Steve Ember.

GWEN OUTEN: And this is Gwen Outen. Listen again next week for People in America in VOA Special English.


1. Before the Olympics, Jesse Owens mostly thought about ________________ .
a: The color of his skin
b: Adolph Hitler and the Nazis
c: The finish line
d: his competition

2. The 1936 Olympic Games were held in _________________ .
a: Berlin
b: Paris
c: The United States
d: Amsterdam

3. The German boxer Max Schmeling defeated black champion boxer Joe Louis in __________ .
a: 1935
b: 1936
c: 1940
d: 1944

4. In his book "Blackthink", Jesse Owens said that ________________ .
a: not all black people had the same opportunities that he had
b: black people were outcasts in American society
c: black people had the same chance to succeed as white people
d: black people were victims of white dominated corporate life

5. Jesse Owens won four Gold Medals at the 1936 Olympics. Adolph Hitler _________ .
a: ordered motion pictures made of the Olympics Games
b: complained that Jesse Owens was on drugs
c: executed the athletes Jesse Owens had defeated
d: wept bitterly and went on a three day drinking binge

6. Jesse Owens didn't win a Gold Medal at the 1936 Olympics for the ________________ .
a: one hundred meter run
b: one hundred meter swim
c: two hundred meter run
d: long jump

7. After his victories in the Olympics of 1936, businesses _______________ .
a: offered him high paying jobs and used his name
b: only used his name and didn't hire him
c: didn't use his name to sell products
d: only hired him for a short time

8. Charley Riley helped Jesse Owens to become an athlete. But first, it was necessary to _______________ .
a: teach Jesse Owens the rules of sports
b: improve the young man's health with wholesome food
c: build the young man's muscles through weight lifting exercises
d: build the young man's endurance by training him with a stationary bike

9. Another name for this article could be, " ___________ ."
a: Training Methods for Olympics Athletes
b: Black Athletes of the 1930s
c: The Life and Career of Jesse Owens
d: The Rise of Nazi Germany

10. This article is mainly about _____________ .
a: the Olympic Games of 1936
b: the difficulties experienced by black athletes
c: the rigorous training of Olympic athletes
d: the great Jesse Owens, his struggles and accomplishments

The following is a video of Jesse Owens winning the 100 meter run.

Check out the Jesse Owens Website for more information about this amazing athlete.

Monday, August 15, 2011

"Moby Maybe" from Edcon Publishing

Sam is aiming his harpoon gun at a killer whale.

A place you will read about: Vancouver, a city near the Pacific Ocean. Things you will read about: harpoon gun: a gun that shoots spears. Statue: a piece of art that is made to look like a person or animal and that is usually made of stone, wood, clay, or metal.

Sam leaned over the side of the boat, when he saw a huge black fin heading towards him. That fin told him it was a killer whale. Sam raised his harpoon gun, took aim, and fired. The knife at the end of the rope hit its mark. The whale leaped out of the water squeaking loudly. It was not dead, just wounded. Sam needed a dead whale as a model for the statue he was to make for the city of Vancouver.

The whale was swimming quietly on its line and would be easy to hit. Sam picked up his gun again, aimed, then stopped. An idea struck him! No killer whale had ever been caught and kept alive for doctors to study. This could be the first one. Sam had to work fast if he were to save the whale's life. He sent a radio call to Vancouver. He wanted doctors waiting at the dock with a salt water tank for the whale.

During the long trip back, Sam decided his whale ought to have a name. He remembered the famous whale story, Moby Dick, and thought that Moby Dick would be a good name. But what if it were a girl whale? Then Moby Doll might be better. Since Sam wasn't sure, he decided on Moby Maybe.

News about Sam and Moby Maybe spread through the city quickly, and thousands of people were waiting at the dock to greet them. Doctors carefully took out the knife and gave the whale something to help its wound get better. Sam spent many days sitting on a float in Moby Maybe's tank, keeping the whale company while it got better. A killer whale could easily break up a float with its tail if it wanted to, but Moby didn't. The whale seemed to know that Sam was its friend.

One thing did worry Sam. Moby wasn't eating. No matter what kind of meat or fish Sam offered, Moby refused everything. This went on for eight weeks. Then, one day, the whale started flapping its tail as if to get Sam's attention. Sam threw Moby a fish, and the whale ate it. Then Sam threw two more, and Moby ate them, too. Crowds around Moby's tank cheered. Stories about Moby' s first meal appeared on the front page of every Vancouver newspaper. Moby had become the city's pet, and news that the whale had eaten, made the whole city happy.

Soon, Moby was eating one hundred pounds of fish every day. The whale, who had been quiet and shy before, now leaped and played in the water. One day, Sam announced lunch by slapping the water with the fish that Moby liked best - cod. Moby swam up to Sam, took the fish from him, and ate it. Then Sam held the next fish high in the air to get the whale to leap for it. Moby took one look at where Sam was holding the fish and quickly dived under the water.

The whale came up on the other side of the tank flapping its tail in anger. When Sam lowered the fish closer to the water, Moby came back and took it. Next, Sam splashed the water with a rockfish. Moby took one look at the sharp fins on the fish's body and swam away. The whale showed its anger again by flapping its tail. But when Sam had cut off the sharp fins, Moby returned and ate the fish. Sam was discovering just how smart Moby was. The whale had a mind of its own! Moby was training Sam, instead of Sam training Moby.

The doctors were eager to test Moby's hearing, for they knew that whales have a very sharp sense of hearing. They played recordings of calls of other killer whales for Moby. When the whale heard them, it answered them with excited squeaks. But when doctors played a recording of Moby's own voice, the whale paid no attention to it at all.

After a few months, Moby's shiny black skin started turning gray. The doctors began to worry. They found that the trouble was with the water in the tank. It wasn't as salty as the ocean water. Plans were made to move Moby's tank to another dock where the water was better. But before the tank could be moved, Moby took one last dive. The mighty killer whale never came up again. Divers went into the tank and discovered the whale dead at the bottom. They also discovered that Moby Maybe was really Moby Doll!

Sam finally made his statue for the city of Vancouver. But to him, it was not just a statue of a killer whale. It was a way to honor Moby Doll. For she had taught the world just how clever killer whales really are.

1. When Sam shot the whale, _______
a. it dived under the water quickly.
b. it leaped out of the water squeaking.
c. it attacked his boat with its tail.
d. it broke the line and swam away.

2. Sam was out hunting a whale _________
a. to keep as a family pet.
b. to study how whales behave.
c. to use as a model for a statue.
d. to teach it to do tricks.

3. Sam decided not to kill the whale because ___________
a. he wanted to let doctors study it.
b. his gun wasn't working too well.
c. the people of Vancouver didn't want him to.
d. he was afraid other whales would attack him.

4. Sam named the whale Moby Maybe because ____________
a. Moby was Sam's last name.
b. it was the name of a famous whale story.
c. the doctors thought it was a good name.
d. he wasn't sure if it was a boy or girl whale.

5. Vancouver newspapers had stories of Moby on the front page because ________
a. there was no other news to print.
b. people were very interested in the whale.
c. Sam asked them to put it there.
d. that was where they always put animal stories.

6. After the whale started eating, ____________
a. it leaped and played in the water.
b. it became quiet and shy.
c. it attacked Sam and the doctors.
d. it flapped its tail in anger.

7. Moby got angry when Sam ____________
a. slapped the water with a fish.
b. held the fish high in the air.
c. sat on a float in the tank.
d. cut off the sharp fins on the fish.

8.When doctors played recordings of other whales' voices, ________
a. Moby paid no attention to them.
b. Moby swam away in anger.
c. Moby leaped out of the water.
d. Moby answered with excited squeaks.

9. Another name for this story could be __________
a. "Sam, The Whale Hunter."
b. "How to Feed Killer Whales."
c. "The Clever Killer Whale."
d. "Animal Doctors at Work."

10. This story is mainly about _____________
a. the different kinds of fish killer whales eat.
b. catching whales off the coast of Vancouver.
c. things doctors learned by studying a killer whale.
d. a killer whale's sharp sense of hearing.

Moby Doll in Wikipedia. Here you will read that the official name for "Killer Whale" is "Orca".

Orca and Dog conversation from Youtube. Don't miss this. It's amazing.