Tuesday, August 24, 2010


Sunday, August 22, 2010

"The Devil and Tom Walker" by Washington Irving

Our story today is, "The Devil and Tom Walker. " It was written by Washington Irving. Here is Shep O'Neal with our story.


Storyteller: Before we begin our story, let us go back three hundred years to the late sixteen hundreds. In those years, one of the most famous men in the world was Captain William Kidd. Captain Kidd was a pirate. He sailed the seas, capturing any ships he found. He and his men took money from these ships. Captain Kidd hid this money in different places.

Captain Kidd was captured by the English in Boston, Massachusetts and executed in the year seventeen-oh-one.

From that time on, people all over the world searched in many places for Captain Kidd's stolen money.

The people who lived in Massachusetts in the seventeen hundreds believed Captain Kidd buried some of his treasure near Boston. Not far from Boston was a small river which ran into the Atlantic Ocean. An old story said that Captain Kidd had come up this river from the ocean. Then he buried his gold and silver and jewels under a big tree.

The story said that this treasure was protected by the devil himself, who was a good friend of Captain Kidd.

In the year seventeen twenty-seven, a man named Tom Walker lived near this place. Tom Walker was not a pleasant man. He loved only one thing -- money. There was only one person worse than Tom. That was his wife. She also loved money. These two were so hungry for money that they even stole things from each other.

One day, Tom Walker was returning home through a dark forest. He walked slowly and carefully, so that he would not fall into a pool of mud.

At last, he reached a piece of dry ground. Tom sat down on a tree that had fallen. As he rested, he dug into the earth with a stick. He knew the story that Indians had killed prisoners here as sacrifices to the Devil. But this did not trouble him. The only devil Tom was afraid of was his wife.

Toms stick hit something hard. He dug it out of the earth. It was a human skull. In the skull was an Indian ax.

Suddenly, Tom Walker heard an angry voice: "Don't touch that skull!"

Tom looked up. He saw a giant sitting on a broken tree. Tom had never seen such a man. He wore the clothes of an Indian. His skin was almost black and covered with ashes. His eyes were big and red. His black hair stood up from his head. He carried a large ax.

The giant asked, "What are you doing on my land?" But Tom Walker was not afraid. He answered, "What do you mean? This land belongs to Mr. Peabody."

The strange man laughed and pointed to the tall trees. Tom saw that one of the trees had been cut by an ax. He looked more closely and saw that the name Peabody had been cut into the tree. Mr. Peabody was a man who got rich by stealing from Indians.

Tom looked at the other trees. Every one had the name of some rich, important man from Massachusetts. Tom looked at the tree on which he was sitting. It also had a name cut into it -- the name of Absalom Crowninshield. Tom remembered that Mr. Crowninshield was a very rich man. People said he got his money as Captain Kidd did -- by stealing ships.

Suddenly, the giant shouted: "Crowninshield is ready to be burned! I'm going to burn many trees this winter!"

Tom told the man that he had no right to cut Mr. Peabody's trees. The stranger laughed and said, "I have every right to cut these trees. This land belonged to me a long time before Englishmen came to Massachusetts. The Indians were here. Then you Englishmen killed the Indians. Now I show Englishmen how to buy and sell slaves. And I teach their women how to be witches."

Tom Walker now knew that the giant was the Devil himself. But Tom Walker was still not afraid.

The giant said Captain Kidd had buried great treasures under the trees, but nobody could have them unless the giant permitted it. He said Tom could have these treasures. But Tom had to agree to give the giant what he demanded.

Tom Walker loved money as much as he loved life. But he asked for time to think.

Tom went home. He told his wife what had happened. She wanted Captain Kidd's treasure. She urged him to give the Devil what he wanted. Tom said no.

At last, Misses Walker decided to do what Tom refused to do. She put all her silver in a large piece of cloth and went to see the dark giant. Two days passed. She did not return home. She was never seen again.

People said later that Tom went to the place where he had met the giant. He saw his wife's cloth hanging in a tree. He was happy, because he wanted to get her silver. But when he opened the cloth, there was no silver in it -- only a human heart.

Tom was sorry he lost the silver, but not sorry he lost his wife. He wanted to thank the giant for this. And so, every day he looked for the giant. Tom finally decided that he would give the giant what he wanted in exchange for Captain Kidd's treasure.

One night, Tom Walker met the giant and offered his soul in exchange for Captain Kidd's treasure. The Devil now wanted more than that. He said that Tom would have to use the treasure to do the Devil's work. He wanted Tom to buy a ship and bring slaves to America.

As we have said, Tom Walker was a hard man who loved nothing but money. But even he could not agree to buy and sell human beings as slaves. He refused to do this.

The Devil then said that his second most important work was lending money. The men who did this work for the Devil forced poor people who borrowed money to pay back much more than they had received.

Tom said he would like this kind of work. So the Devil gave him Captain Kidd's treasure.

A few days later, Tom Walker was a lender of money in Boston. Everyone who needed help -- and there were many who did -- came to him. Tom Walker became the richest man in Boston. When people were not able to pay him, he took away their farms, their horses, and their houses.

As he got older and richer, Tom began to worry. What would happen when he died? He had promised his soul to the Devil. Maybe. . .maybe. . . he could break that promise.

Tom then became very religious. He went to church every week. He thought that if he prayed enough, he could escape from the Devil.

One day, Tom took the land of a man who had borrowed money. The poor man asked for more time to pay. "Please do not destroy me!" he said. "You have already taken all my money!"

Tom got angry and started to shout, "Let the Devil take me if I have taken any money from you!"

That was the end of Tom Walker. For just then, he heard a noise. He opened the door. There was the black giant, holding a black horse. The giant said, "Tom, I have come for you." He picked up Tom and put him on the horse. Then he hit the horse, which ran off, carrying Tom.

Nobody ever saw Tom Walker again. A farmer said that he saw the black horse, with a man on it, running wildly into the forest.

After Tom Walker disappeared, the government decided to take Tom's property. But there was nothing to take. All the papers which showed that Tom owned land and houses were burned to ashes. His boxes of gold and silver had nothing in them but small pieces of wood. The wood came from newly cut trees. Tom's horses died, and his house suddenly burned to ashes.


Announcer: You have heard the story, "The Devil and Tom Walker." It was written by Washington Irving. Our storyteller was Shep ONeal. Listen again next week at this same time for another AMERICAN STORY told in Special English on the Voice of America. This is Shirley Griffith.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

"Johnny Appleseed" from Voice of America

I’m Faith Lapidus. And I’m Steve Ember with the VOA Special English program PEOPLE IN AMERICA. Today we tell about a man known as Johnny Appleseed. Many people considered him a hero.


Johnny Appleseed was the name given to John Chapman. He planted large numbers of apple trees in what was the American wilderness two hundred years ago. Chapman grew trees and supplied apple seeds to settlers in the middle western Great Lakes area. Two centuries later, some of those trees still produce fruit.

As a result of stories and poems about Chapman’s actions, Johnny Appleseed became an American hero. However, some of the stories told about Johnny Appleseed over the years may not have been really true.

John Chapman was born in Leominster, Massachusetts, in seventeen seventy-four. His father, Nathaniel Chapman, served in America’s war for independence. He fought British troops in the battle of Concord in seventeen seventy-five.

John was the second of three children. Little is known about his childhood. His mother Elizabeth became sick with tuberculosis and died a short time after the birth of her third child. In seventeen eighty, Nathaniel Chapman married Lucy Cooley of Longmeadow, Massachusetts. John and his older sister moved to Longmeadow with their father and his new wife. This new marriage produced ten more children.

When John Chapman was old enough to leave home, he asked his half-brother, Nathaniel, to come with him. They slowly traveled south and west from Massachusetts to the state of Pennsylvania. At that time, much of western Pennsylvania was undeveloped.

Government records show that John lived in the Allegheny Mountains in seventeen ninety-seven. He is said to have cleared land and planted apple seeds near a waterway. In a short time, the seeds grew to become trees that produced fruit.

Pennsylvania was the first stop in what would become a life-long effort to plant apple trees. The reason for John Chapman’s life’s work is unknown. Some people said he loved to watch the flowers on apple trees grow and change into tasty fruit.

Apples were an important food for the early settlers of North America. Apples offered something different in daily meals. They were easy to grow and store for use throughout the year. They could be eaten raw, cooked or dried for eating during the winter. And they could be made into other products, like apple butter and apple juice.


After a few years, Chapman left the hills of western Pennsylvania and traveled west into the Ohio Valley. He transported sixteen bushels of apple seeds down the Ohio River in eighteen-oh-one. He planted apple seeds in several areas near a place called Licking Creek. Some of the seeds were planted on land owned by a farmer named Isaac Stedden.

Chapman was careful about where he planted apple seeds. He did not leave them just anywhere. First, he would find rich, fertile land in an open area. Then, he cleared the land, carefully removing unwanted plants. Then, he planted his seeds in a straight line and built a fence around them. The fence helped to keep the young trees safe from animals. As the trees grew, he returned to repair the fence and care for the land.

Chapman planted with thoughts about future markets for his crops. His trees often grew in land near settlements. He often sold his apple seeds to settlers. Sometimes, he gave away trees to needy settlers. When low on seeds, he returned east to Pennsylvania to get more. He got the seeds from apple presses -- machines used to make apples into a drink called apple cider.

Before long, Chapman’s trees were growing in fields across Ohio. People began calling him Johnny Appleseed.


Johnny Appleseed was a small man with lots of energy. He had long dark hair. His eyes were black and bright. He never married. He lived very simply. For years, he traveled alone in the wilderness, without a gun or knife. He slept in the open air and did not wear shoes on his feet.

Some people gave him clothing as payment for his apple trees. But sometimes he wore a large cloth bag or sack as clothing. The sack had holes for his head and arms. On his head, he wore a metal container for a hat. He also used this pot for cooking his food. People said he lived this way because he wanted to. He had enough money for shelter and clothes if he had wanted to buy these things.

Johnny Appleseed looked like someone who was poor and had no home. Yet he was a successful businessman. He used his money to improve his apple business and help other people. He was famous for his gentleness and bravery. Both settlers and native Americans liked him. Everywhere he traveled, he was welcomed. Reports from that period suggest that some native Americans believed he was “touched by God.” Others called him a great medicine man.

During his travels, some families asked Johnny to join them for a meal. He would never sit down until he was sure that their children had enough to eat. His diet was as simple as his clothing. He believed that it was wrong to kill and eat any creature for food. He believed that the soil produced everything necessary for humans. He also criticized people who wasted food.


There are a number of other stories about Johnny Appleseed. Once a rattlesnake attempted to bite him while he slept. Johnny struck the creature, killing it. This was an action he said he always regretted.

Another time, he was trapped in the wilderness during a severe snowstorm. He found shelter in an old tree that had fallen to the ground. In the tree, he discovered a mother bear and her cubs. He did not interfere with the animals, and left before they knew he was there.

As the years passed, Johnny Appleseed decided to leave Ohio. He moved west into wilderness areas in what is now the state of Indiana. The woods were filled with bears, wolves and other wild animals. Yet he never hurt these creatures.

Johnny Appleseed has sometimes been called the American Saint Francis of Assisi. Saint Francis established a Roman Catholic group that cares for the poor and the sick. Saint Francis also is remembered for his love of animals and for honoring nature.

John Chapman was a very religious man. He liked to read from the Christian holy book, the Bible. He was strongly influenced by the Swedish scientist and Christian thinker, Emanuel Swedenborg. Chapman belonged to the Church of New Jerusalem, a religious group based on Swedenborg’s teachings.


In about eighteen thirty, John Chapman got some land in Fort Wayne, Indiana. There, he planted apple seedlings that grew and produced crops. He sold, traded and planted in other areas. Some reports said he also traveled to the nearby states of Kentucky and Illinois. His travels lasted more than forty years.

It is estimated that, during his lifetime, he planted enough trees to cover an area of about two hundred sixty thousand square kilometers. Over time, some adults said they remembered receiving presents from Johnny Appleseed when they were children.

In eighteen forty-five, John Chapman became sick and developed pneumonia during a visit to Fort Wayne. He died in the home of a friend, William Worth. Chapman was seventy years old. He was buried near Fort Wayne. The marker over his burial place reads, “He lived for others.”

When word of Chapman’s death reached Washington, DC, Senator Sam Houston of Texas made a speech honoring him. Houston praised Chapman’s work as a labor of love. He said people in the future would remember his life and work.

Strangely, stories about Johnny Appleseed continued to spread to other areas, long after John Chapman died. Some people claimed they had seen Johnny Appleseed as far south as Texas. Others were sure that he planted trees as far west as California. Even today, some people still claim they are Johnny Appleseed.


This Special English program was written by George Grow. It was produced by Lawan Davis. I’m Faith Lapidus. And I’m Steve Ember. Join us again next week for another PEOPLE IN AMERICA program on the Voice of America.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

"The Statue of Liberty" from Voice of America.

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

Later this week, Americans will celebrate the nation's Independence Day. On July 4, 1776, colonial leaders approved the final Declaration of Independence for the United States.

This year, the city of New York will also celebrate the opening of part of an important symbol of America that has been closed to the public for the past eight years.


The Statue of Liberty has stood in New York Harbor for more than 100 years. It was a gift from the people of France in 1884. Its full name is "Liberty Enlightening the World".

The Statue of Liberty is 46 meters tall from its base. It is made mostly of copper. Throughout history, images of liberty have been represented as a woman. The statue is sometimes called "Lady Liberty."

The Statue of Liberty's face was created to look like the sculptor's mother. Her right arm holds a torch with a flame high in the air. Her left arm holds a tablet with the date of the Declaration of Independence -- July 4, 1776. On her head she wears a crown of seven points. Each is meant to represent the light of freedom as it shines on the seven seas and seven continents of the world. Twenty-five windows in the crown represent gemstones found on Earth. A chain that represents oppression lies broken at her feet.

In 1903, a bronze plaque was placed on the inner wall of the statue's support structure or pedestal. On it are words from the poem "The New Colossus" written by Emma Lazarus in 1883. The plaque represents the statue's message of hope for people seeking freedom. These are some of its best known words:


Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!


The United States and France have been friends and allies since the time of the American Revolution. France helped the American colonial armies defeat the British. The war officially ended in 1783. A few years later, the French rebelled against their king.

A French historian and political leader, Edouard-Rene Lefebvre de Laboulaye, had the idea for the statue. In 1865, he suggested that the French and the Americans build a monument together to celebrate freedom. Artist Frederic-Auguste Bartholdi immediately agreed to design it.

In 1875, the French established an organization to raise money for Bartholdi's creation. Two years later, an American group was formed to raise money to pay for a pedestal to support the statue. American architect Richard Morris Hunt was chosen to design this support structure. It would stand 47 meters high.

In France, Bartholdi designed a very small statue. Then he built a series of larger copies. Workers created a wooden form covered with plaster for each part. Then they placed 300 pieces of copper on the forms. This copper skin was less than three centimeters thick.

The statue also needed a structure that could hold its weight of more than 200 tons. French engineer Alexandre Gustave Eiffel created this new technology. Later, he would build the famous Eiffel Tower in Paris.

Eiffel and others worked in Paris to produce a strong iron support system for the statue. The design also needed to permit the statue to move a little in strong winds.

France had wanted to give the statue to the United States on the one hundredth anniversary of the Declaration of Independence -- July 4, 1876. But technical problems and lack of money delayed the project. France finally presented the statue to the United States in Paris in 1884. But the pedestal, being built in New York, was not finished. Not enough money had been given to complete the project.

The publisher of the New York World newspaper came to the rescue. Joseph Pulitzer used his newspaper to urge Americans to give more money to finish the pedestal. His efforts brought in another 100,000 dollars. And the pedestal was finished.

In France, workers separated the statue into 350 pieces, put them on a ship and sent them across the ocean. The statue arrived in New York in more than 200 wooden boxes. It took workers four months to put together the statue on the new pedestal. President Grover Cleveland officially accepted the statue in a ceremony on October 28, 1886. He said: "We will not forget that Liberty has here made her home; nor shall her chosen altar be neglected."


The Statue of Liberty became a symbol of hope for immigrants coming to the United States by ship from Europe. More than 12 million people passed the statue between 1892 and 1954 on their way to the immigration center on nearby Ellis Island.

More than 40% of Americans have an ancestor who passed through Ellis Island. Through the years, millions of people continued to visit the Statue of Liberty. A trip to New York City did not seem complete without it.

Still, the statue was old and becoming dangerous for visitors. In 1982, President Ronald Reagan asked businessman Lee Iacocca to lead a campaign to repair it. The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation raised about 100 million dollars in private money to do the work. The repairs included replacing the torch and covering it with 24 carat gold. On July 4, 1986, New York City celebrated a restored and re-opened Statue of Liberty.

Officials closed the Statue of Liberty following the terrorist attacks in New York on September 11, 2001. It remained closed until August, 2004. When it re-opened, visitors could only go onto the statue's pedestal. But the Statue continued to attract visitors—more than three million a year.

This year, on July 4th, visitors once again will be able to climb inside the statue all the way to the top. It is not an easy thing to do. More than 350 steps lead to Lady Liberty's crown. The National Park Service says it will limit the number of climbers to about 200 a day. No more than ten people will be able to go up at one time. At that rate, officials estimate that more than 100,000 people will be able to climb to the top each year.

But if you want to visit the newly opened Statue of Liberty, you must do it within the next two years. That is because the National Park Service plans to close it again for more repairs. Officials say the improvements could take as long as two years. But they say the work will make it possible to safely double the number of visitors permitted inside.


The Statue of Liberty National Monument and Ellis Island is one of America's national parks. It includes both Liberty Island, where the statue stands, and nearby Ellis Island, the former federal immigration processing center.

Officials at the center examined many of the immigrants who arrived by ship before they were permitted to enter the United States. The main building was restored and opened as a museum in 1990. The museum includes pictures, videos, interactive displays and recordings of immigrants who went through Ellis Island until it was closed in 1954.

One popular exhibit is the Immigrant Wall of Honor outside the main building. It honors all immigrants to the United States no matter where they entered the country. It now lists the names of more than 700,000 people. A new area of wall is being prepared for more names to be added.

An immigration history center on the island contains the ship records of passengers who entered through New York from 1892 through 1924. Those were the years of the great wave of European immigration, before the United States passed restrictive immigration laws.

One recent visitor said the Ellis Island immigration hall feels alive with the stories of people who left their native lands long ago to start a new life in a new country.


This program was written by Nancy Steinbach and produced by Caty Weaver. I'm Barbara Klein. And I'm Steve Ember. You can find transcripts, MP3s and podcasts of our programs at voaspecialenglish.com. Join us again next week for THIS IS AMERICA in VOA Special English.

"The Statue of Liberty" Comprehension Check One

"The Statue of Liberty" Comprehension Check Two:

1. The Statue of Liberty has been in New York harbor for _____ .
a. more than 200 years
b. more than 100 years
c. less than 80 years
d. since 1932

2. This statue was a gift from ____ .
a. England
b. Germany
c. California
d. France

3. The broken chain at her feet represents ______ .
a. poverty
b. wealth
c. oppression
d. hunger

4. The Statue of Liberty's skin is made of _______ .
a. copper
b. iron
c. brass
d. steel

5. The pedestal for the Statue of Liberty was made in _____ .
a. France
b. England
c. America
d. Argentina

6. The engineer who designed the support structure also designed The _____ .
a. Statue of Liberty
b. Mona Lisa
c. Eiffel Tower
d. Golden Gate Bridge

7. After necessary repairs, the Statue of Liberty was reopened in _____ .
a. 1876
b. 1986
c. 1884
d. 1776

8. Many immigrants have seen the Statue of Liberty on their way to _______ .
a. California
b. Ellis Island
c. Manhattan Island
d. France

9. Another name for this story could be "_________ ".
a. The Pedestal
b. Ellis Island Stories
c. The History of a Famous Statue
d. Large Monuments

10. This article is mainly about _______ .
a. French-American relations
b. moving 200 ton structures
c. the history of America sculpture
d. the symbol of liberty

The Statue of Liberty in Wikipedia.

A tour of The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island on Youtube:

Sunday, July 18, 2010

"Jimmy Stewart: One of America's
Greatest Film Actors"

I'm Shirley Griffith. And I'm Rich Kleinfeldt with the VOA Special English program, PEOPLE IN AMERICA. Today, we tell the story of actor James Stewart. His movies were loved by people around the world.


James Maitland Stewart was born in the small eastern town of Indiana, Pennsylvania in nineteen-oh-eight. His father had a hardware store that had been owned by the Stewart family since the eighteen fifties.

During high school, Jimmy played football, and acted in plays. He also learned to play the accordion. He took the accordion with him to college at Princeton University, where he joined a musical group called the Triangle Club. Through the club, he met students interested in performing.

Jimmy studied architecture at Princeton. He graduated in nineteen thirty-two. Just before graduation, a friend asked him to join an acting group for the summer. Jimmy agreed because he thought it would be a good way to meet girls.

Jimmy Stewart said later that if his friend had not asked him to join the summer theater group, he would never have been an actor. He would have returned home to help his father in the store. Instead, he met a number of good young actors while performing that summer in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. One was Henry Fonda, who would be a friend throughout his life.

Jimmy Stewart performed in Broadway plays in New York City until the Metro Goldwyn Mayer movie company gave him an acting job. He moved to California in nineteen thirty-five. He acted in more than twenty-four movies over the next six years. He appeared in all kinds of movies: funny ones, sad ones and musical ones. He even sang a song in the movie "Born to Dance. " It is called "Easy to Love":


The movie that made Jimmy Stewart a real Hollywood star was "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. " It was released in nineteen thirty-nine.


“It's a funny thing about men, you know. They all start life being boys. I wouldn't be a bit surprised if some of these Senators were boys once. And that's why it seemed like a pretty good idea to me to get boys out of crowded cities and stuffy basements for a couple of months out of the year and build their bodies and minds for a man-sized job, because those boys are gonna be behind these desks some of these days.”

The next year, he won an Academy Award for best actor in "The Philadelphia Story. "

The night he won the Academy Award, his father called him on the telephone from Pennsylvania. "I hear you won some kind of an award," Alex Stewart said. "You had better bring it back here and we'll put it in the window of the store. " Jimmy Stewart's Oscar statue stayed in the window of Stewart's hardware store in Indiana, Pennsylvania for twenty-five years.

Jimmy Stewart was already an established and successful actor when World War Two started in Europe. Early in nineteen forty-one, he tried to join the Army. But he was rejected because he did not weigh enough. So he started eating high fat foods and tried again. This time, he was accepted for military service.

The Army put him in the Air Corps because he already knew how to pilot a plane. In nineteen forty-three, he went to Europe as commander of an Air Force bomber group. He flew more than twenty combat missions, leading as many as one thousand planes at a time over Germany. He returned to the United States in nineteen forty-five as a colonel.

Jimmy Stewart won several military awards for excellent performance under very dangerous conditions. He remained in the Air Force Reserve after the war. In nineteen fifty-nine he was made a general. Each year, he took part in two weeks of active military duty. In nineteen sixty-six, he requested combat duty and took part in a bombing strike over Vietnam.


After World War Two, Jimmy Stewart returned to Hollywood. He found that his new movies were not as popular as his earlier ones had been. One example was "It's a Wonderful Life." It was released in nineteen forty-six. The movie was not a success at first. But over time it has become one of the best loved American movies.


“Can't you understand what's happening here? Don't you see what's happening? Potter isn't selling. Potter's buying! And why? Because we're panicky and he's not. That's why. He's pickin' up some bargain. Now, we can get through this thing all right. We've, we've got to stick together, though. We've got to have faith in each other.”

Jimmy Stewart said in later years that "It's a Wonderful Life" was the movie he liked best. It tells the story of a small town man who feels the world would have been better if he had never lived. An angel comes to him and shows him that this is not true. The movie celebrated values like loyalty and love of family.


Jimmy Stewart decided to play other kinds of parts after what seemed to be the failure of "It's a Wonderful Life. " He was a reporter in "Call Northside Seven Seven Seven" the next year. He was a suspicious head of a school in the murder movie "Rope" in nineteen forty-eight. In the nineteen fifties, he appeared in many western movies such as "Winchester Seventy-Three" and "Broken Arrow. "

Jimmy Stewart enjoyed his greatest popularity in the nineteen fifties. In nineteen fifty-nine, he won awards from the Venice Film Festival, the New York film critics and the Film Daily writers. The awards honored him for his performance in the movie "Anatomy of a Murder. " He was the defense attorney for an army officer accused of murder. He was nominated for an Academy Award for that movie. He was also nominated for an Academy Award for playing a man who has an imaginary rabbit friend, in the movie "Harvey. "

Jimmy Stewart is well known for his work with the famous director of mystery movies, Alfred Hitchcock. These movies included "The Man Who Knew Too Much," "Rear Window" and "Vertigo. " Mr. Stewart also played real heroes in several movies. He was band leader Glenn Miller in "The Glenn Miller Story. " And he was pilot Charles Lindbergh in "The Spirit of Saint Louis. "

Jimmy Stewart appeared in fewer films in the nineteen sixties. He was a senator in the Old West in "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.” In "The Shootist" he was a doctor in a small town. He also appeared on television. But his two television shows were not successful.

Mr. Stewart began experiencing health problems as he aged. He had heart disease, skin cancer and hearing loss. But he found time to travel. And he published a book of poetry in nineteen eighty-nine. It sold more than three hundred thousand copies.

In nineteen eighty, Jimmy Stewart was honored by the American Film Institute with an award for his lifetime work. Three years later, he received a Kennedy Center Honor for his work. And in nineteen eighty-five, President Ronald Reagan gave him the nation's highest civilian award, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

People who knew Jimmy Stewart did not praise him just because he was a good actor and a war hero. They said Jimmy Stewart was one of the nicest people they had ever met. He was a man who lived by the values he was taught as a child in that small town in Pennsylvania.

He went back to Indiana, Pennsylvania, in nineteen eighty-three, for his seventieth birthday. The town held a huge celebration in his honor. President Reagan sent planes to fly over the court house. Parades were held. And a statue of him was placed in the town center.

Jimmy Stewart married Gloria Hatrick McLean in nineteen forty-nine. She had two sons from an earlier marriage. Jimmy raised them as his own. One of the boys was killed during the Vietnam War while serving in the Marine Corps. Jimmy and Gloria also had twin daughters.

Gloria Stewart died in nineteen ninety-four. Friends said Jimmy Stewart was never the same after that. They said he withdrew into his house because he did not know what to do without her. His health got worse. He died on July the second, nineteen ninety-seven.

Jimmy Stewart's daughter Kelly Harcourt spoke at his funeral in Beverly Hills. She reminded mourners of the message of her father's favorite movie, "It's a Wonderful Life:" No man is poor who has friends.

"Here's to our father," she said, "the richest man in town."


This Special English program was written by Nancy Steinbach and produced by Lawan Davis. I'm Rich Kleinfeldt. And I'm Shirley Griffith. Join us again next week at this time for another PEOPLE IN AMERICA program on VOA.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

"The History of the Pueblo People" from Voice of America


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


And I’m Barbara Klein. This week we visit two special places in the state of New Mexico. They are important in the history of the Pueblo Indians of the Southwest United States.



In eighteen eighty, a scientist was traveling in the Southwest United States. Adolph Bandelier was researching the history and social organization of the American Indians who had lived there for centuries.

When he was in northern New Mexico, men from Cochiti Pueblo took him to a place where their ancestors had lived in Frijoles Canyon. Mister Bandelier saw the ruins of the ancient pueblo or village and said "This is the grandest thing I ever saw."


Today, many visitors to what is now known as Bandelier National Monument feel the same way. They lift their eyes to the tall rock walls that rise hundreds of meters up from the floor of the valley. They climb ladders to enter some of the caves that were homes centuries ago.

They walk along the Frijoles stream lined with green trees that once was the only water supply for the valley. They wonder at the beauty of the area and imagine what it felt like to live there hundreds of years ago.



Bandelier National Monument is near the city of Los Alamos and not far from Santa Fe, the capital of New Mexico. It is on the Pajarito Plateau. This was formed by two explosions of the Jemez volcano more than one million years ago.

Ash up to three hundred meters thick covered more than six hundred square kilometers around the volcano. Slowly the area became what visitors see today -- a dry land of high flat mesa tops and deep canyons formed through thousands of years by flowing rivers.

People moved into the American Southwest more than ten thousand years ago as the last ice age was ending. These early people hunted large animals for food. They did not build permanent structures to live in because they followed the movement of the animals.

Archeologists have found evidence of these early people in the Bandelier area. The hunters left spear points shaped out of stone that they used as weapons.


The climate of the Southwest became drier and warmer. By seven thousand years ago, many large animals no longer existed. Instead, people hunted smaller animals and gathered wild plants for food.

About two thousand five hundred years ago the first houses appeared on the flat tops of mesas in what is now northern New Mexico. They were pit houses, dug partly underground.

Soon after that more permanent houses were built above ground. These early homes were made of a mixture of wet dirt, wood and rocks. Small family groups lived in these homes. They grew crops of corn, beans and squash.


More people moved into the Pajarito Plateau area about eight hundred years ago. They began living together in larger groups. Many people moved from the mesa tops to the bottom of Frijoles Canyon. They built pueblos, or villages, some of them large. They had a good water supply in Frijoles Creek and fertile land for growing crops.

The traditional stories of American Indians who now live in the pueblos near Bandelier tell of links to the people who lived in Frijoles Canyon long ago. Yet no written record of the area exists until after the Spanish arrived in fifteen forty.



Now you are at the visitor center at Bandelier National Monument. A long path follows along the floor of Frijoles Canyon through an area of wildflowers and trees. From a distance you can see the tall wall of the canyon ahead.

The path leads to the ruins of a large village, named Tyuonyi. It had about four hundred small rooms built around a central open plaza. About one hundred people lived in the pueblo. It is one of several large pueblos whose ruins have been found in Bandelier National Monument.

The people who lived here were ancestors of some of today’s Pueblo Indians. Archeologists think they spent much of their time outside. They used the rooms for sleeping and keeping food. Both men and women grew crops. The women ground corn for bread, cooked and made pottery. The men built new rooms, hunted animals for food, and wove cloth. Children played games and took care of small animals.


The path continues past the ruins of the old pueblo up toward the reddish brown wall of Frijoles Canyon. There are many openings in the rock wall. The canyon walls are made of a soft rock called tuff.

Tuff is made of ash from the explosions of the Jemez volcano. After thousands of years the ash became a soft rock. Through the years rain and wind made cracks and openings in it. The ancestral Pueblo people used stone tools to widen the small natural openings in the face of the canyon walls.

Visitors can climb up wood ladders to see the inside of several of the cave homes. The ceilings are black from smoke. From a cave room you can see far up and down the canyon and imagine what life was like there seven hundred years ago. Farther up the path are more cave homes with ruins of small stone rooms next to the wall of the canyon. Along the walls and in the caves are designs or symbols carved into the rock or painted on it.


You can see many other ruins by following the more than one hundred kilometers of trails in Bandelier. Archeologists know that the ancestors of today’s Pueblo Indians lived in the Frijoles Canyon for more than four hundred years.

They also know that by the middle fifteen hundreds people left their villages and cave homes and moved south and east toward the Rio Grande River. No one is sure why. Modern Pueblo Indians say they feel a strong link to the spirit of their ancestors in Bandelier National Monument.



Taos Pueblo is near the city of Taos. It is the farthest north of the nineteen present-day Pueblos in New Mexico. It is very high up -- about two thousand two hundred meters.

Taos Pueblo is considered to be the oldest community in the United States that has always had people living in it. The Tiwa language spoken by the Taos Indians has never been written. However, their spoken history tells of their ancestors living in the area for about one thousand years.


The present Taos Pueblo buildings are made of adobe, a mixture of wet dirt and straw. They were finished almost six hundred years ago. They have many rooms built on top of each other. Centuries ago hundreds of people lived there. Today only about one hundred fifty people live in them all the time. These Taos Indians live in the ancient adobe rooms as their ancestors did centuries ago -- without any running water or electric power for lights.

Almost two thousand Taos Indians live nearby on land the tribe owns. They live in modern houses with electricity and running water. During the year they return to the Pueblo to take part in the many ceremonies and dances that are held in the ancient plazas.


The Taos Pueblo you see today looks almost as it did to the Spanish when they arrived almost five centuries ago. Many first time visitors recognize it because artists have been painting the beauty of Taos Pueblo for years.

Tall green mountains rise behind the Pueblo. Two large brown adobe buildings containing many rooms are on the north and south side of a stream. The water in the stream flows down from Blue Mountain Lake, a sacred place for the Taos Indians. It provides water for drinking and cooking for the people who live in Taos Pueblo today, just as it has for centuries.


Much of Taos Pueblo is not open to visitors. Taos Indians keep their history and ceremonies secret. They expect people to honor their privacy and their traditions. But visitors are welcome in small stores that are around the large open plaza areas. You can buy bread baked outside in traditional circular ovens. And you can buy jewelry, drums made of leather, and wood carvings made by members of the tribe.

The United Nations has named Taos Pueblo a World Heritage Site, one of the most important historical and cultural places in the world. For the Taos Indians, it will always be the center of their cultural and spiritual world.



Our program was written by Marilyn Christiano and produced by Caty Weaver. You can read transcripts of our programs and download audio at voaspecialenglish.com. I’m Steve Ember.


And I’m Barbara Klein. Join us again next week for THIS IS AMERICA in VOA Special English.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

"The Lewis and Clark Expedition, Early 1800s"


This is Steve Ember. And this is Shirley Griffith, with the VOA Special English program, Explorations. Today we continue our story of Lewis and Clark. Their exploration in the early 1800s led to the opening of the American West.


Last week we told how President Thomas Jefferson suggested the trip to his private secretary Meriwether Lewis. The president said Lewis and a group of men should travel northwest up the Missouri River as far as possible and then continue west to the Pacific Ocean. The explorers were to report about the land, people, animals and plants they found.

Lewis asked his friend William Clark to join the group. Clark accepted and the two men agreed to act as equal leaders of the group they named the Corps of Discovery. Their trip began on May fourteenth, 1804.


It was one hundred sixty-four days into the trip. Lewis and Clark had traveled about 2,420 kilometers when they were stopped by the cold winter weather. They named their winter home Fort Mandan. Mandan was the name of an Indian tribe that lived nearby.

At Fort Mandan, Lewis and Clark met French Canadian hunter Toussaint Charbonneau. He was living with the Indians. He asked to join the Corps of Discovery. He also asked if his Indian wife could come too. Her name was Sacagawea. She was pregnant. Lewis and Clark agreed to let them join their group for two reasons. The first was that Charbonneau spoke several Indian languages. The second concerned Sacagawea. She came from the Shoshoni tribe that lived near the Rocky Mountains in the far West.

She had been captured as a young girl by another Indian tribe. Lewis and Clark knew that no Indian war group ever traveled with women. They knew that Sacagawea's presence with them would show Indians that the Corps of Discovery did not want to fight. Sacagawea gave birth to her son, Jean Baptiste Charbonneau, on February eleventh, 1805. The baby, too, would make the long trip to the Pacific Ocean. He was the youngest member of the Corps of Discovery.

In early April, the Corps of Discovery prepared to travel west. The smaller group of soldiers that had aided them during their trip to Fort Mandan prepared to return south to Saint Louis. The soldiers took the larger of the three boats the group had used to follow the Missouri River. They also took Lewis and Clark's first maps, animals, plants and reports to President Jefferson. These reports provided much detail about the land and what was on it. For example, Lewis used more than one thousand words to tell about one bird.

Today, visitors to President Jefferson's home in the southeastern state of Virginia can see many things collected by Lewis and Clark. Animal heads and weapons made by the Mandan Indian tribe are among them.


The Corps of Discovery again moved up the Missouri River as soon as the warm weather of spring began to return. Lewis wrote of seeing thousands of animals: American bison, deer, huge elk and very fast antelope. Lewis saw thousands of animals all feeding together.

Lewis and Clark soon decided to leave behind important information, plants and things collected from Indians. They were having problems carrying everything they were gathering. They also decided to leave extra food behind. They did this by digging a deep hole and burying everything to protect it from animals. They would do this again and again on their way west. They would collect everything on their return trip.

The explorers soon reached an area where a series of waterfalls blocked passage on the river. This area is near the modern city of Great Falls, Montana. Here, the Corps of Discovery pulled the boats from the water and took them over land to the river. They carried the boats almost thirty kilometers. To make the trip easier, they made wooden wheels for their boats. Later they buried the wheels with more food and things they had collected.

On July twenty-fifth, 1805, Meriwether Lewis and two other men saw a small river that was flowing to the west. All rivers before had flowed east or southeast. Lewis correctly guessed he had reached the line that divides the North American continent. Rain falling to the west of the imaginary line becomes rivers that flow to the Pacific Ocean.

Rain that falls to the east of the line forms rivers that flow to the Atlantic Ocean or the Gulf of Mexico. Meriwether Lewis became the first American to cross this continental line. At that point, Lewis could tell from the huge mountains he saw ahead that they would find no waterway across the continent. A lot of the trip would have to be over land.

Meriwether Lewis met two Shoshoni Indian women in this same area. About sixty men from the tribe quickly arrived riding horses. They were dressed and painted for war. It was something that few white men ever saw -- a Shoshoni war party prepared to fight. Lewis made peace signs. There was no trouble.

Two days later, Clark arrived with the main group. The Corps of Discovery met with the Indians. At the meeting, Sacagawea began to cry as she looked at the Shoshoni chief, Cameahwait. Cameahwait was her brother. She had not seen him since she was kidnapped many years before.

Lewis and Clark could communicate with the Shoshoni Indians.

But it was not easy. Sacagawea would listen to the Shoshoni. She would then speak to her husband, Charbonneau, in the Hidatsa language. He would speak in French to a soldier in the group, Francis Labiche, who then spoke in English to Lewis. It took a long time, but it worked.

The Corps of Discovery decided to leave the boats and continue west on horses. Sacagawea helped Lewis and Clark trade for horses. She also helped them find an Indian guide to lead them. His name was Toby. It was already the month of September when they reached the high mountains. It was also extremely cold. The explorers began to suffer from a severe lack of food. They were forced to kill and eat several of their horses.

In October they found the huge Columbia River. High winds and rain slowed the group's progress. On November seventh, they reached the Pacific Ocean. Clark recorded that five hundred fifty-four days had passed since they left their camp at Wood River near Saint Louis. They had traveled six thousand six hundred forty-eight kilometers.

For several days the Corps of Discovery camped in an area that is now the extreme southern part of the state of Washington. But the hunting was poor. Indians told them the hunting would be better across the Columbia River. Lewis and Clark decided to hold a vote and let the Corps of Discovery decide. The Corps of Discovery voted to move south across the river into what is now the state of Oregon.

William Clark's black slave York and the Indian guide Sacagawea were included in the vote. History experts say this was the first free, democratic election west of the Rocky Mountains. And they say it was the first time in American history that a black slave and a woman voted in a free election.

The explorers quickly built a camp of wooden buildings on the Columbia River. They would stay there during the winter months between 1805 and 1806. They named the buildings Fort Clatsop. "Clatsop" was the name of a nearby group of friendly Indians. The area of Fort Clatsop is very near the present city of Astoria, Oregon. Visitors to that area today can walk through a copy of Fort Clatsop that was built in 1955.

The group stayed at Fort Clatsop for four months. It rained all but twelve days. During the long winter months, the explorers hunted and preserved food. They used animal skins to make new clothes and shoes. They also studied the Indians, fish, animals and lands near the area of the fort. Clark made extremely good maps of the area. Meriwether Lewis, William Clark and the other members of the Corps of Discovery were prepared for their return trip to Saint Louis. That
will be our story next time.

You have been listening to the Special English program, Explorations. This is Steve Ember. And this is Shirley Griffith. Our program today was written and produced by Paul Thompson. Join us again next week on the Voice of America as we finish our story of Lewis and Clark and the land they explored.


1. Toussaint Charbonneau ___________________ .
a: disliked The Corps of Discovery
b: was a French Canadian Soldier
c: was married to an Indian woman
d: spoke only a little of the Hidatsa language

2. The youngest member of The Corps of Discovery was ____________________________ .
a: William Clark
b: Jean Baptiste Charbonneau
c: Meriwether Lewis
d: Sacagawea

3. The Columbia River flows _____________________________ .
a: to The Pacific Ocean
b: to The Gulf of Mexico
c: to The Atlantic Ocean
d: to The Great Lakes

4. Sacagawea _____________________ .
a: slowed down the expedition
b: took the expedition in the wrong direction
c: learned to speak fluent English
d: was very important to the expedition

5. At Fort Mandan, a group of soldiers returned to Saint Louis because ____________________.
a: they were exhausted and not strong enough to continue
b: they had a conflict with Lewis and Clark
c: they had to take reports, plants, and maps back to President Jefferson
d: they were needed in order to fight a war with the English

6. When Meriwether Lewis saw huge mountains west of the falls, he realized that ________________________ .
a: the rest of the journey would be impossible
b: he would find no waterway across the continent
c: he would need to build stronger and larger boats
d: he would have to take a long detour south using other rivers

7. Sacagewea's presence in the expedition made wars with different Indian tribes __________________ .
a: more likely
b: less likely
c: neither more likely nor less likely
d: almost certain

8. Cameahwait was _________________ .
a: able to speak fluent French
b: a member of the Mandan tribe
c: Jean Baptiste Charbonneau's uncle
d: a member of the Corps of Discovery

9. Another name for this article could be "________________".
a: "Sacagawea Leads The Corps of Discovery"
b: "The Discovery of The Continental Divide"
c: "Lewis and Clark Expedition: Fort Mandan to Oregon"
d: " Meeting Sacagawea's Long Lost Relatives"

10. This article is mainly about _________________ .
a: The Corps of Discovery's journey to the Pacific Ocean
b: the search for a waterway extending across the continent
c: the rich culture and scenery along the Columbia River
d: Sacagawea's invaluable contribution to the success of the Lewis and Clark expedition

Lewis and Clark: Introduction
Lewis and Clark Expedition: Part Two

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

"Project Mercury: The Space Program Begins" from VOA.

EXPLORATIONS -- a program in Special English by the Voice of America.

(SOUND) "... 12, 11, 10, 9, ..., 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, 0. ..."

That announcement was made May 5, 1961. It was the first manned flight of project Mercury. Today, Tony Riggs and Larry West tell about the beginning of the United States space program that carried humans into space.

The United States entered the Space Age in 1945, at the end of World War Two. German rocket scientists, with the support of the German government, had spent fifteen years developing rockets as weapons. Near the end of the war, Germany began firing huge rocket bombs at Britain.

Called V-2 rockets, the German weapons carried a ton of explosives three hundred twenty kilometers. They flew as high as eighty kilometers.

When the war ended, American forces found the parts for about one hundred V-2 rockets. They brought the German rockets to America and launched sixty-six of them.

The army opened the V-2 launch program to American scientists at several universities. Civilian scientists used the V-2 rockets to study the Earth's atmosphere. They gathered much new information and learned much about designing instruments for scientific rockets and satellites.

Many of Germany's top rocket scientists came to the United States after the war. They worked with American scientists and engineers to develop and test new rockets for military and scientific use. In 1956, the United States launched a Jupiter military rocket that flew more than five thousand kilometers.

Military officials immediately offered to use the Jupiter to put a scientific satellite into orbit around the Earth. But the American government said no. Officials decided not to mix military and civilian rocket programs. The United States said it would not launch a scientific satellite until a non-military rocket -- the Vanguard -- could be completed to carry it into space.

Navy scientists were building the Vanguard for scientific purposes. They planned to launch it in 1958.

The twenty-two meter long rocket would put a little scientific satellite into orbit as one of the events of the international geophysical year. The satellite itself would weigh less than two kilograms. But it would contain many tiny electronic instruments for scientific research.


Soviet scientists also were working on rockets and satellites.

In 1957, a Soviet military rocket carried a small satellite into Earth orbit. The eighty-three kilogram satellite, called Sputnik, had two radios that sent signals as it circled the world. One month later, a larger Sputnik was launched with a dog inside. The dog survived the launch. But there was no way to return it to Earth. So it died in space.

A few months later, the Soviet Union put a one thousand three hundred sixty kilogram satellite into space.

The Soviet successes with its Sputnik satellites caused the United States to change its space plans. Officials decided to launch the Vanguard as soon as possible.

The attempt was made on December sixth, soon after the first two Sputnik launches. The attempt failed. The rocket exploded during the launch. Less than two months later, however, the United States put its first satellite into orbit.

The rocket was an army Jupiter. The satellite was Explorer One. It weighed only fourteen kilograms. But it carried a great many electronic instruments for scientific research.


The instruments reported much new information about conditions in space. The most important was the discovery of a belt of radiation around the Earth. It was what we now call the Van Allen Belt.

Support was growing, in Congress and among scientists, for a United States civilian space agency. Soon, Congress passed a bill creating NASA -- the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. President Eisenhower signed the bill into law.

Its job: the scientific exploration of space. Its major goal: sending the first Americans into space.

The new space agency was given a lot of money and thousands of engineers and technicians from military and civilian agencies. Within three months, the man-in-space program had a name: Project Mercury. The name came from the ancient Greeks. Mercury was the speedy messenger of the Greek gods.

Much work had to be done before Project Mercury could put an American astronaut into space. Dependable rockets needed to be built and tested. A spacecraft had to be designed and built. A worldwide radio system was needed to communicate with orbiting astronauts. And astronauts had to be chosen and trained.


To save time, NASA decided to work on all parts of the program at the same time. It placed orders for four different kinds of military rockets for Mercury flights. It chose the McDonnell Aircraft Company to design and build the Mercury spacecraft. And it began to look for men who would be astronauts.

NASA said its astronaut candidates had to be between twenty-five and forty years old and in excellent health. They could be no taller than one hundred eighty centimeters. Candidates had to be highly intelligent, with an education in science or engineering.

NASA also said the first astronauts had to be military pilots with experience in test flying airplanes. Test pilots already were trained to make quick, correct decisions in dangerous situations.

One observer said in a joking way that the space agency was just looking for a group of "normal, everyday supermen." But it was not a joke. NASA found seven normal, everyday supermen in a group of five hundred candidates.

On April 7, 1959, the space agency introduced the first American astronauts. They were Scott Carpenter, Gordon Cooper, John Glenn, Virgil Grissom, Walter Schirra, Alan Shepard and Donald Slayton.

All were married and had children. All were from small towns or cities. All were about the same height, weight and age. And all were experienced military test pilots.

Each of the new astronauts, however, brought his own special knowledge and skills to the Mercury project.

Navy pilot Scott Carpenter, for example, was well trained in communications and navigation. So he helped with Mercury's communications and navigation systems. Walter Schirra, another Navy flier, was an expert on the pressure suits worn by navy divers. He helped design the space suits that would protect the Mercury astronauts in space.

Air Force pilot Gordon Cooper became an expert on the Redstone Rocket that would launch Mercury astronauts on short training flights. Donald Slayton, another Air Force flier, worked on the long-range Atlas Rocket. Marine John Glenn was an expert on airplane instruments. So he helped design easy-to-use instruments for the Mercury spacecraft.

Navy pilot Alan Shepard helped plan Mercury's worldwide communication system. And Virgil Grissom, of the Air Force, worked on Mercury's electrical systems.


NASA made its first unmanned test flight of the Mercury spacecraft nine months after the project started. The launch was made from the space center at Cape Canaveral, Florida. The flight tested the heat shield. The shield protected the spacecraft from the great heat produced when it returned through the Earth's atmosphere.

Many other unmanned test flights followed in the next two years.

The final test flight was made at the end of January, 1961. It carried a chimpanzee named Ham on a seven hundred kilometer flight over the Atlantic Ocean. Several problems developed. But Ham survived the launch and the landing in the ocean. However, he never wanted to get close to a space capsule again.

Space officials announced that astronaut Alan Shepard would become the first American in space. He would be launched early in May, 1961, on a short, fifteen minute flight. That will be our story next week.


You have been listening to EXPLORATIONS -- a program in Special English by the Voice of America. It was written by Marilyn Rice Christiano and Frank Beardsley. Your narrators were Tony Riggs and Larry West. I'm Shirley Griffith. Listen again next week to the second part of the story of the Mercury program that took the first American astronauts into space.


1. A chimpanzee named Ham survived the launch of a spacecraft and its landing in the ocean. After that, he _________________________ .
a: never wanted to get close to a space capsule again
b: traveled into space several more times
c: was accompanied by a female chimp on his next flight
d: refused to leave the space capsule

2. Walter Schirra helped design space suits that would protect Mercury astronauts in space because he was an expert on __________________________ .
a: clothing worn by pilots
b: pressure suits worn by navy divers
c: outfits worn by mountain climbers
d: suits worn by workers in navy factories

3. An astronaut would not be selected if he __________________________ .
a: were under one hundred and eighty centimeters tall
b: had experience as a flier
c: were fifty years old
d: were educated in physics

4. What became known as the "Space Race" began ____________________ .
a: after the Soviets successfully launched Sputnik in 1957
b: after the first US Vanguard flight failed
c: after the first human was launched into space
d: after the German V2 rockets were used to explore Earth's atmosphere

5. None of the seven selected astronauts were ____________________ .
a: pilots
b: in good health
c: trained in science or engineering
d: single

6. What is the name of a German weapon used in World War II which subsequently was used by civilian scientists in the United States?
a: the Messerschmitt single-engine sports and touring aircraft
b: the Focke-Wulf Fw fighter biplane
c: The V-2 ballistic missile
d: The U-Boot or Unterseeboot, a fighter submarine

7. The satellite, Explorer One, _________________________ .
a: was carried into space by the first Vanguard
b: carried a dog who died in space
c: weighed only fourteen kilograms
d: didn't carry many electronic instruments

8. President Eisenhower signed a bill creating NASA, an agency whose purpose was to _____________________.
a: explore the military advantages of space exploration
b: exploit the commercial possibilities of space travel
c: make scientific discoveries and eventually send the first Americans into space
d: explore the behavior of animals in space

9. "We have liftoff" means _____________________________ .
a: We have a problem with our computer
b: Our spacecraft is leaving the ground
c: Our instrument panel has come loose
d: Our bodies are beginning to float in the air

10. The Van Allen Belt is _____________________________ .
a: a special projective belt worn by astronauts
b: a belt of radiation surrounding the earth
c: a protective shield for spacecraft leaving earth's atmosphere
d: a belt worn by the Greek God Mercury

A 1963 documentary about Project Mercury from Youtube. Challenge your listening skills with this video. You will be surprised at how much of it you can understand. There is a short ad that last for 6 seconds. To leave the ad, click on "Skip Ad".

Project Mercury: Part Two

Sunday, May 30, 2010

"Buckminster Fuller: Engineer, Designer, Thinker" from VOA.

PHOEBE ZIMMERMANN: I’m Phoebe Zimmermann.

STEVE EMBER: And I’m Steve Ember with the VOA Special English program PEOPLE IN AMERICA. Today we tell about an unusual man who had many abilities, Richard Buckminster Fuller.


PHOEBE ZIMMERMANN: Building designer. Engineer. Inventor. Thinker. Poet. Not five people. Just one: Richard Buckminster Fuller. "Bucky" Fuller, as he was known, was one of the most unusual thinkers of the twentieth century. His aim in life was to make the human race a success in the universe.

Bucky Fuller spent most of his life searching for new ideas. He also searched for unusual connections between existing ideas. He described himself in these words: "A complete, future-thinking design-science explorer."

Fuller believed deeply in technology. Through technology, he said, people can do anything they need to do.

STEVE EMBER: R. Buckminster Fuller died in nineteen eighty-three at the age of eighty-seven. During his long life, he discussed his idea about technology and human survival. He called his idea "dymaxion." It came from three words. Dynamic, meaning a force. Maximum, meaning the most. And ion, which is an atom or group of atoms with an electrical charge.

Fuller explained the word dymaxion as a method of doing more with less. Everything he did was guided by this idea. He designed a dymaxion car, a dymaxion house, and a dymaxion map of the world. But he probably is known best for another invention -- the geodesic dome. A geodesic dome is a round building made of many straight-sided pieces.

Talking about R. Buckminster Fuller means using strange words. This is because Fuller himself invented words to describe his ideas and designs. His designs were way ahead of his time. They still are.


PHOEBE ZIMMERMANN: R. Buckminster Fuller was born in Milton, Massachusetts, in eighteen ninety-five. Bucky could not see clearly, because his eyes did not point straight ahead. So, his world was filled with masses of color without clear shapes.

When he was four years old, he got eyeglasses to correct the problem. Suddenly, he could see the shapes of people's faces. He could see stars in the sky and leaves on the trees. He never lost his joy at the beauty he discovered in the world.

As a child, Bucky Fuller questioned everything. He was a very independent thinker at an early age. His refusal to accept other people’s ideas and rules continued as he grew older. One result was that he never completed his university studies. He was expelled two times from Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He thought his time was better spent having fun than studying.

Yet Bucky Fuller was very serious about learning. He proved this when he joined the American navy during World War One.

STEVE EMBER: In the navy, he learned all about navigation, mathematics, mechanics, communications and electronics engineering. He loved this world of modern technology. Soon after he joined the navy, he designed new rescue equipment. It helped save the lives of some pilots during training. Fuller's good navy record won him a short-term appointment to the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. It was there he first developed two ideas that were important for the rest of his life.

While studying warships, Fuller realized that they weighed much less than buildings, yet were able to do much more. He decided better designs could also help humans do more, using fewer materials.

PHOEBE ZIMMERMANN: In nineteen seventeen, Bucky Fuller married Anne Hewlett. Their daughter, Alexandra, was born about a year later. Bucky was a very emotional man, as well as an intellectual one. He loved his little daughter. She was the wonder of his world. Then Alexandra became very sick. The medicine to cure her had not been invented yet. She died at the age of four.

Bucky Fuller blamed himself, although he had done everything he could to save her. His sorrow overcame him. He began to drink too much alcohol. Yet he continued to work hard.

Fuller was head of a company that made a light-weight building material. He was not a successful businessman, however. And the company began to fail. He was dismissed by the owners. It was nineteen twenty-seven. His wife had just given birth to another baby girl. They were living in Chicago, Illinois. He had no job and no money. He felt he was a complete failure.

STEVE EMBER: Bucky Fuller walked through the streets of Chicago along Lake Michigan. He stood silently on the shore. He considered killing himself. Then, as he explained later, he realized he did not have the right to kill himself. He said he had felt something inside him that day. He called it the Greater Intelligence or God. It told him he belonged to the universe. So Bucky Fuller decided to live. And he would live the way he thought best. He promised to spend his remaining years in search of designs that could make human existence on Earth easier. This began his great creative period.


PHOEBE ZIMMERMANN: Fuller's first design was the dymaxion house. It was not built at the place it would stand. It was built in a factory, then moved. It did not cost much to build. And it did not look like a traditional house in America. Its roof hung from a huge stick in the center. Its walls were made of glass. It contained everything needed for people to live. Power came from the sun. Water was cleaned and re-used.

Fuller then designed and built the dymaxion car. It looked a little like the body of an airplane. It had three wheels instead of four. It could go as fast as one hundred eighty kilometers an hour. It carried up to twelve passengers. Several companies were interested in building and selling Fuller's house and car. But his designs were so different, so extreme, that banks were not willing to lend money for the projects. So the dymaxion house -- which could have provided low-cost housing for everyone -- was never built. And the dymaxion car -- which could have provided safe, pollution-free transportation using little gasoline -- was never produced.

STEVE EMBER: Bucky Fuller did not give up his idea of doing more with less. He had an idea for another building design. It would provide the most strength with the least amount of material. He began looking for the perfect shape.

Fuller found it in nature. It appeared in the shapes of organic compounds and metals. The main part of his design is a four-sided pyramid. To create a building, many pyramids are connected to each other. The connecting piece has eight sides. Together, these two shapes create a very strong, light-weight rounded structure. The structure can be covered with any kind of material. And it can stand without any supports inside. Fuller named this structure the geodesic dome. It covers more space with less material than any other building ever designed.

PHOEBE ZIMMERMANN: After a number of experimental geodesic domes were built, industry began to understand the value of the design. Today, there are about one hundred thousand different large and small geodesic domes in use around the world. However, no one yet has acted on one of Fuller's ideas for the geodesic dome. There are no limits to the size of a geodesic dome. So Fuller proposed using them over cities or over areas that had severe weather. A geodesic dome that size would make it possible to have complete control over the environment inside it.


STEVE EMBER: Most of Bucky Fuller's inventions did not earn him much money. A lot of what he did earn he spent traveling around the world. He told anyone who would listen about his ideas for human life on this planet. He called the planet "Spaceship Earth." Humans, he said, are astronauts on Spaceship Earth. They are traveling one hundred thousand kilometers an hour around the sun. He said the Earth is like a large mechanical device that will survive only if people living on it know how to operate it correctly.

People must live on Earth just as astronauts live in a spaceship. They must use their supplies wisely, and re-use them.

Buckminster Fuller said humans are able, through planning and wise use of natural supplies, to feed and house themselves forever.


PHOEBE ZIMMERMANN: This VOA Special English program, PEOPLE IN AMERICA, was written by Marilyn Rice Christiano. It was produced by Lawan Davis. Our engineer was Sulaiman Tarawaley. I’m Phoebe Zimmerman.

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