Sunday, August 22, 2010


"Hegel's Holiday", Rene Magritte, 1958

Thursday, August 12, 2010

"Pocahontas" from Voice of America

PEOPLE IN AMERICA, a program in Special English on the Voice of America.


She lived almost four hundred years ago in what became the American state of Virginia. She was the first Native American to marry a white person. I'm Shirley Griffith. And I'm Ray Freeman. Today, we tell about Pocahontas, the daughter of the chief of the Powhatan Indian tribe.


Pocahontas was born in fifteen ninety-five. She was one of twenty children of Chief Powhatan. Powhatan ruled a group of more than twenty Indian tribes in territory that is now the eastern state of Virginia.

In sixteen-oh-seven, the Virginia company in England sent colonists to settle the land that later became the United States of America. The leader of the English settlers was John Ratcliffe. He claimed the land for King James of England. He named the new colony Jamestown, Virginia. The English colonists did not know that the area already was settled by Indians.

The Powhatan Indians lived in the area where the English colonists landed. They were part of a large group of American tribes who spoke the Algonquian language. The Powhatans had lived in the area for almost one thousand years. They built villages. They grew beans, corn, squash and melons. They created a strong political system, led by powerful chiefs like Powhatan. His power and wealth were evident.

Women of the tribes controlled the houses and the fields. They made clothing of animal skins and containers of clay. Men hunted and fished for food. Both men and women wore earrings and other objects made of shells, pearls and copper.

The young Pocahontas often visited Jamestown during the colony's first months. She was about twelve years old. The colonists knew her well. She became an important link between the colonists and her father, Powhatan.

The Indians' culture was very different from that of the English settlers. The two groups did not understand each other. The misunderstandings led to hostile incidents between the colonists and the Indians.

John Smith was an explorer, soldier and a leader of the Jamestown colony. He was captured in sixteen-oh-seven by followers of Powhatan. Captain Smith wrote about this incident in a book that was published in sixteen twenty-four. He wrote that Pocahontas saved him from being executed by Powhatan. This story has been repeated for hundreds of years. This is what most people know about Pocahontas.

Most historians, however, do not believe that Pocahontas saved the life of John Smith. Some believe that Captain Smith invented the story after reading about a similar event that took place in Florida. That event involved a captured Spanish explorer, an Indian chief and the chief's daughter.

Some historians do not believe that John Smith's life was in danger. They say that what Captain Smith thought was to be his execution was really an Indian ceremony. The ceremony was meant to show that Powhatan accepted Smith as part of his tribe. Historians say the Indian chief wanted to make the English colonists his allies.

After Captain Smith's capture, the Indians and the colonists agreed to a truce. Pocahontas visited Jamestown more often. She may not have really saved John Smith's life. But most experts agree that Pocahontas helped the colonists. She brought them corn when they were starving. She once was said to have warned the colonists about a surprise attack by the Indians.

John Smith had been wounded during his capture. He returned to England. Hostilities once again broke out between the Indians and the English settlers. In sixteen eleven, Thomas Dale became acting governor of the colony. He started a new aggressive policy toward the Indians. Two years later, an English soldier, Samuel Argall, kidnapped Pocahontas. She was about eighteen years old. The colonists kidnapped her because they wanted to prevent more attacks by the Indians. They also wanted to force chief Powhatan to negotiate a peace agreement.

Pocahontas lived as a hostage in the Jamestown settlement for more than a year. A colonist, John Rolfe, taught her English. He also taught her the Christian religion. Pocahontas was the first Native American to become Christian. She changed her name to Rebecca.

In sixteen fourteen, she married John Rolfe in the church in Jamestown. She was the first Indian woman to marry a white man. Her husband believed that their marriage would be good for the colony. John Rolfe said he married Pocahontas "for the honor of our country, for the glory of God. "

Governor Dale immediately opened negotiations with Powhatan. The result was a period of peace that lasted for about eight years.

Pocahontas' husband was a tobacco grower. She taught him the Indian way of planting tobacco. This method improved the tobacco crop. Tobacco later became America's first successful crop.

In sixteen fifteen, Pocahontas and John Rolfe had a son. They named him Thomas. The next year Pocahontas and her family sailed to England for a visit. In London, she was treated like a famous person. She was officially presented to king James the First. She also met John Smith again.

The Virginia Company said her visit proved that it was possible to have good relations between the English colonists and the Indians. The company urged more people to move from England to the Virginia colony.

Pocahontas had her picture painted while visiting England. She is wearing the clothes she wore when she met the King. They are the kind of clothes that were popular in England in the sixteen hundreds. This picture is the only one that really is of her.

Pocahontas and her family stayed in England for seven months. They prepared to return to Jamestown. But Pocahontas became sick with smallpox. She died from the disease. She was buried in Gravesend, England. She was twenty-two years old.

Her son, Thomas Rolfe, was raised in England. When he was twenty, he returned to Virginia. He lived as a settler in his mother's native land. He married and had a daughter. Through Thomas Rolfe, a number of famous Virginians have family ties to Pocahontas. These families are proud to claim their ties to Pocahontas. They call her "Virginia's First Lady. "

Pocahontas left no writings of her own. The only reports about her from the time were written by John Smith. His reports may not all have been true. Yet the story of her rescue of Captain Smith became a popular folk story.

Americans know that Pocahontas played a part in the early history of Virginia. They remember her bravery and friendship. Americans also remember her for what she represented as a Native American: the hope of close relations between the white people and the Indians.

Pocahontas is honored in the United States Capitol building in Washington, D. C. There are three art works of her in the large, round, main hall of the capitol. There are more representations of her than any other American except for the nation's first president, George Washington. The three art works show the popular stories about Pocahontas. One is a painting of Pocahontas taking part in a religious ceremony in which she became a Christian. Two others show her saving the life of Captain John Smith.

Many different American groups have used the name and some version of a picture of Pocahontas. Whale hunters in the nineteenth century named ships after Pocahontas in honor of her bravery. They also put small statues of her on their ships.

Both the confederate forces in the South and the Union forces in the North used her name or picture during the American Civil War. A picture of Pocahontas was on the flag of a division of Confederate forces called the Guard of the Daughters of Powhatan. Union forces named a warship after the Indian woman.

Many American writers have written about Pocahontas. The Walt Disney company produced a popular children's movie about her.

Today, visitors to the Jamestown settlement in Virginia can see what life was like there in the sixteen hundreds.

They can see copies of the ships that brought the English settlers. And they can see statues of three of the people important in early America: John Smith, Chief Powhatan, and his daughter -- Pocahontas.


This Special English program was written by Shelley Gollust. It was produced by Lawan Davis. I'm Ray Freeman. And I'm Shirley Griffith. Listen again next week for another PEOPLE IN AMERICA program on the Voice of America.


1. ______________________ was the son of Pocahontas.
a: John Smith
b: Thomas Rolfe
c: Powhatan
d: Samuel Argall

2. The method for raising the successful tobacco crop in the colonies was improved because _________________ .
a: Pocahontas taught the Indian way of raising tobacco to John Rolfe
b: the colonists used land that the Indians had used for other crops
c: the colonists in Virginia developed their own tobacco seeds through experimentation
d: Powhatan permitted the colonists to borrow their digging tools

3. There is some doubt as to whether Pocahontas really saved John Smith's life or not. Many scholars think _______________________ .
a: another native American saved his life
b: he was lying because he wanted to tell a sensational story
c: what he thought was going to be an execution was really an Indian ceremony
d: Pocahontas in reality wanted to kill him because he left for England without telling her

4. Pocahontas didn't __________________ .
a: visit Jamestown very often
b: marry John Smith
c: help the starving colonists by bringing corn to them
d: visit England

5. One artwork in the United States Capitol building shows Pocahontas _____________ .
a: in a religious ceremony in which she became a Christian
b: helping the colonists to survive a winter storm
c: traveling by ship to England
d: running through the forest with a bow and arrow

6. Pocahontas was the first Indian woman to _____________________ .
a: visit an English colony
b: show colonists how to survive in the forest
c: save the life of a colonist from execution by her tribe
d: marry a white European

7. Samuel Argall kidnapped Pocahontas in 1613 because _________________ .
a: she was eighteen years old and Governor Dale wanted to marry her
b: the colonists wanted to prevent more attacks by the Indians
c: the colonists needed her knowledge of Indian farming methods
d: John Smith wanted to write a book about Powhatan and his children

8. Before the colonists arrived to establish Jamestown, the Indians had a life that could be best described as ___________________ .
a: prosperous
b: impoverished
c: without a language for communication
d: totally dependent on hunting and gathering

9. Another name for this article could be " _________________ ".
a: "Virginia's First Lady"
b: "Powhatan and The Colonists"
c: "The Children of Pocahontas"
d: "How Pocahontas Saved John Smith's Life"

10. This article is mainly about ________________ .
a: the conflict between Jamestown and the Powhatan Indians
b: the grammar of the Algonquian language
c: the life and influence of the amazing Pocahontas
d: Pocahontas's meeting with the King of England

"Pocahontas" from Walt Disney. Enjoy these fine animated films.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

"The Boston Tea Party" from Voice of America.

This is the history of the real Boston Tea Party, a protest in 1773 against British taxation without representation on the American Colonies. The modern Tea Party movement takes its inspiration from this history. This Tea Party group is composed of very sincere patriots, believers in the traditions and values of this country, but they're largely misled by clever advertising to express anger against everything except what causes our real problems: inappropriate, huge corporate influence in government, corrupt representatives, unregulated financial speculation, union busting, and the business of war.

This is Sarah Long. And this is Rich Kleinfeldt with THE MAKING OF A NATION, a VOA Special English program about the history of the United States.


Today, we tell about the start of the American colonies' war for independence from Britain in the late 1700s.

The road to revolution lasted several years. The most serious events began in 1770. War began five years later.

Relations between Britain and its American colonists were most tense in the colony of Massachusetts. There were protests against the British policy of taxing the colonies without giving them representation in Parliament. To prevent trouble, thousands of British soldiers were sent to Boston, the biggest city in Massachusetts. On March 5, 1770, tension led to violence. This is what happened.

It was the end of winter, and the weather was very cold. A small group of colonists began throwing rocks and pieces of ice at soldiers guarding a public building. They were joined by others, and the soldiers became frightened. They fired their guns.


The Boston Massacre

Five colonists were killed. The incident became known as the Boston Massacre.

The people of Massachusetts were extremely angry. The soldiers were tried in court for murder. Most were found innocent. The others received minor punishments. Fearing more violence, the British Parliament cancelled most of its taxes. Only the tax on tea remained.

This eased some of the tensions for a while. Imports of British goods increased. The colonists seemed satisfied with the situation, until a few years later. That is when the Massachusetts colony once again became involved in a dispute with Britain.


The trouble started because the British government wanted to help improve the business of the British East India Company. That company organized all the trade between India and other countries ruled by Britain. By 1773, the company had become weak. The British government decided to permit it to sell tea directly to the American colonies. The colonies would still have to pay a tea tax to Britain.

The Americans did not like the new plan. They felt they were being forced to buy their tea from only one company.

Officials in the colonies of Pennsylvania and New York sent the East India Company's ships back to Britain. In Massachusetts, things were different. The British governor there wanted to collect the tea tax and enforce the law. When the ships arrived in Boston, some colonists tried to block their way. The ships remained just outside the harbor without unloading their goods.

On the night of December sixteenth, 1773, a group of colonists went out in a small boat. They got on a British ship and threw all the tea into the water. The colonists were dressed as American Indians so the British would not recognize them, but the people of Boston knew who they were. A crowd gathered to cheer them. That incident -- the night when British tea was thrown into Boston harbor -- became known as the Boston Tea Party.


Destroying the tea was a serious crime. The British government was angry. Parliament reacted to the Boston Tea Party by punishing the whole colony of Massachusetts for the actions of a few men. It approved a series of laws that once again changed relations between the colony and Britain.

One of these laws closed the port of Boston until the tea was paid for. Other laws strengthened the power of the British governor and weakened the power of local colonial officials.

In June, 1774, the colony of Massachusetts called for a meeting of delegates from all the other colonies to consider joint action against Britain.

The First Continental Congress
This meeting of colonial delegates was called the First Continental Congress. It was held in the city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in September, 1774. All the colonies except one was represented. The southern colony of Georgia did not send a delegate.

The delegates agreed that the British Parliament had no right to control trade with the American colonies or to make any laws that affected them. They said the people of the colonies must have the right to take part in any legislative group that made laws for them.

The First Continental Congress approved a series of documents that condemned all British actions in the American colonies after 1763. It approved a Massachusetts proposal saying that the people could use weapons to defend their rights. It also organized a Continental Association to boycott British goods and to stop all exports to any British colony or to Britain itself. Local committees were created to enforce the boycott.

One of the delegates to this First Continental Congress was John Adams of Massachusetts. Many years later, he said that by the time the meeting was held, the American Revolution had already begun.


Britain's King George the Second announced that the New England colonies were in rebellion. Parliament made the decision to use troops against Massachusetts in January, 1775.

The people of Massachusetts formed a provincial assembly and began training men to fight. Soon, groups of armed men were doing military exercises in towns all around Massachusetts and in other colonies, too.

British officers received their orders in April, 1775. By that time, the colonists had been gathering weapons in the town of Concord, about thirty kilometers west of Boston. The British forces were ordered to seize the weapons. But the colonists knew they were coming and were prepared.

Years later, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote a poem about what happened. The poem tells about the actions of Paul Revere, one of three men who helped warn the colonial troops that the British were coming:


Listen my children and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere.
On the eighteenth of April in Seventy-five
Hardly a man is now alive
Who remembers that famous day and year.

He said to his friend, "If the British march
By land or sea from the town tonight
Hang a lantern aloft in the belfry arch
Of the North Church tower as a signal light, --
One if by land, and two if by sea;
And I on the opposite shore will be,
Ready to ride and spread the alarm
Through every Middlesex village and farm
For the country folk to be up and to arm."

When the British reached the town of Lexington, they found it protected by about seventy colonial troops. These troops were called "Minute Men" because they had been trained to fight with only a minute's warning. Guns were fired. Eight colonists were killed.

No one knows who fired the first shot in that first battle of the American Revolution. Each side accused the other. But the meaning was very clear. It was called "the shot heard round the world."


From Lexington, the British marched to Concord, where they destroyed whatever supplies the colonists had not been able to save. Other colonial troops rushed to the area. A battle at Concord's north bridge forced the British to march back to Boston.

It was the first day of America's war for independence. When it was over, almost three hundred British troops had been killed. Fewer than one hundred Americans had died.

The British troops had marched in time with their drummers and pipers. The musicians had played a song called "Yankee Doodle." The British invented the song to insult the Americans. They said a Yankee Doodle was a man who did not know how to fight. After the early battles of the revolution, the Americans said they were glad to be Yankee Doodles.


Following the battles at Lexington and Concord, the Massachusetts government organized a group that captured Fort Ticonderoga on Lake Champlain in New York State. The other colonies began sending troops to help. And another joint colonial meeting was called: the Second Continental Congress. That will be our story next week.


Today's MAKING OF A NATION program was written by Nancy Steinbach. This is Sarah Long. And this is Rich Kleinfeldt. Join us again next week for another Special English program about the history of the United States.


1. "The shot heard around the world" refers to the _________________ .
a. Boston Tea Party
b. Boston Massacre
c. first shot of the Revolutionary War
d. Continental Congress

2. The First Continental Congress met to condemn British actions and to organize a ___________ .
a. revolution
b. demonstration
c. constitution
d. boycott

3. In 1770, five colonists were killed. This became known as the ______________ .
a. Battle of Concord
b. Battle of Lexington
c. Boston Massacre
d. Boston Tea Party

4. After 1770, the only tax colonists had to pay was for their ______ .
a. soldiers
b. tea
c. stamps
d. liquor

5. ___________ was the famous messenger who warned that the British were coming in 1775 to attack the rebellious colonists.
a. Paul Revere
b. Sybil Ludington
c. John Adams
d. Henry Longfellow

6. The British wrote the song "Yankee Doodle" to suggest that American soldiers were
___________ .
a. incompetent
b. sharpshooters
c. insane
d. courageous

7. _________________ was the only colony who didn't send a representative to the First Continental Congress.
a. New York
b. Georgia
c. Massachusetts
d. New Jersey

8. The colonists were angry that the British Parliament passed ________ laws that affected the colonies without their representation.
a. tax
b. crime
c. property
d. divorce

9. Another name for this article could be "_______________ ".
a. The East India Tea Company
b. Events That Led to Revolution
c. The British Parliament
d. The Continental Congresses

10. This article is mainly about ___________________ .
a. the problem of taxation without representation
b. the beginning of the American Revolution
c. the battles of Lexington and Concord
d. the midnight ride of Paul Revere.

The Boston Massacre, from Youtube:

Interesting facts about the Boston Tea Party from "Cheeky History", a very interesting new website.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

"Johnny Cash's Hit Music" from VOA.


I’m Faith Lapidus.


And I’m Doug Johnson with the VOA Special English program PEOPLE IN AMERICA. Today we tell about world famous country music performer Johnny Cash.

(MUSIC: "I Walk The Line")


That was Johnny Cash singing his first major hit record, “I Walk The Line”. It has sold more than two million copies since it was released in nineteen fifty-six.

Music industry experts say Johnny Cash recorded one thousand five hundred songs during his life. He sold more than fifty million records. He recorded not only country music, but religious songs, rock and roll, folk and blues.

Johnny Cash’s music could be as dark as the black clothes he always wore. Those songs told stories about poor people, outlaws, prisoners, coal miners, cowboys and laborers. He sang about loneliness, death, love and faith. He also sang very funny songs, like this one, “A Boy Named Sue.”



Johnny Cash was born in nineteen thirty-two in the southern state of Arkansas. His parents were poor cotton farmers. He worked in the fields alongside his parents, three brothers and two sisters.

He also listened to country music on the radio. He began writing songs and he performed on radio programs. After high school, he joined the United States Air Force. He served as a radio operator in Germany.

He returned to the United States in nineteen fifty-four and married Vivian Liberto. They moved to Memphis, Tennessee. He got a job selling kitchen equipment and went to school to learn how to be a radio announcer.

Cash formed a band with two friends and performed at local events. They began recording for Sun Records in Memphis. One of the songs Cash wrote became the first country music hit record for the company. It was “Cry, Cry, Cry.”



Johnny Cash continued to record on his own for Sun Records. He performed all across the United States and Canada. He also appeared on radio and television shows. His next big hit record sold more than one million copies. It was a hit for a second time in nineteen sixty-eight after Johnny Cash recorded it live at Folsom Prison. It was “Folsom Prison Blues.”



By nineteen fifty-eight, Johnny Cash was a successful recording artist, songwriter and singer. He was invited to perform at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tennessee. He performed his music in front of live audiences in the United States and in other countries. But he was often afraid to perform in front of a lot of people. He began using drugs to help him perform and quickly became dependant on the drugs. His serious drug problem caused the end of his marriage.

Johnny Cash said he took drugs regularly for seven years during the nineteen sixties. Then he would drive cars and boats too fast and get into dangerous accidents that almost killed him. He finally decided that he needed to stop taking drugs. One of his best friends, country singer June Carter, helped him through this difficult time. The Carter family is considered one of the earliest country and western singing groups.

Johnny Cash and June Carter recorded together. They won a Grammy award in nineteen sixty-eight for best country and western performance by a group. The song was “Jackson.”



Johnny Cash and June Carter were married in nineteen sixty-eight. They performed many times with the Carter family. She also helped him re-discover his Christian faith.

Years earlier, June Carter had written a song about her feelings for Johnny. His record of that song became one of his biggest hits, “Ring Of Fire.”



Johnny Cash had his own television show and also acted in movies. He published two books about his life. He won many awards, including eleven Grammy Awards and the Kennedy Center Honors. He was elected to both the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He also received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.

Johnny Cash suffered many health problems as he got older. When June Carter Cash died in May, two thousand three, his friends feared the worst. But Cash decided to continue recording.

He recorded more than fifty songs in the four months before he died on September twelfth, two thousand three, in Nashville. He was seventy-one years old.


Fans say that Johnny Cash’s music was important because it told simple stories about life and death. They say he cared about social issues and continued to express support for those who are poor and without political power. One of the last songs he recorded was one made popular by the rock and roll group Nine Inch Nails. It is called “Hurt.”



A reporter once asked Johnny Cash what he hoped people would remember about his music. Cash said he hoped people would remember that his music described the feelings of love and life. That it was different. And that it was honest.

(MUSIC: "I Walk The Line")


This Special English program was written by Nancy Steinbach. It was produced by Lawan Davis. Our studio engineer was Suleiman Tarawalay. I’m Faith Lapidus.


And I’m Doug Johnson. Join us again next week for another PEOPLE IN AMERICA program on the Voice of America.

"How the Search for Religious Freedom Led to the Colonies"

This is Rich Kleinfeldt. And this is Sarah Long with THE MAKING OF A NATION, a VOA Special English program about the history of the United States.


Today, we tell about the movement of European settlers throughout northeastern America. And we tell how the separate colonies developed in this area.

The Puritans were one of the largest groups from England to settle in the northeastern area called Massachusetts. They began arriving in 1630. The Puritans had formed the Massachusetts Bay Company in England. The king had given the company an area of land between the Charles and Merrimack rivers.

The Puritans were Protestants who did not agree with the Anglican Church. The Puritans wanted to change the church to make it more holy. They were able to live as they wanted in Massachusetts. Soon they became the largest religious group. By 1690, 50,000 people were living in Massachusetts.

Puritans thought their religion was the only true religion and everyone should believe in it. They also believed that church leaders should lead the local government, and all people in the colony should pay to support the Puritan church. The Puritans thought it was the job of government leaders to tell people what to believe.

Some people did not agree with the Puritans who had become leaders of the colony. One of those who disagreed was a Puritan minister named Roger Williams.

Roger Williams believed as all Puritans did that other European religions were wrong. He thought the Native Indian religions were wrong too. But he did not believe in trying to force others to agree with him. He thought that it was a sin to punish or kill anyone in the name of Christianity. And he thought that only church members should pay to support their church.

Roger Williams began speaking and writing about his ideas. He wrote a book saying it was wrong to punish people for having different beliefs. Then he said that the European settlers were stealing the Indians' land. He said the king of England had no right to permit people to settle on land that was not his, but belonged to the Indians.

Roger Williams
The Puritan leaders of the Massachusetts Bay Colony forced Roger Williams to leave the colony in 1636. He traveled south. He bought land from local Indians and started a city, Providence. The Parliament in England gave him permission to establish a new colony, Rhode Island, with Providence as its capital. As a colony, Rhode Island accepted people of all religious beliefs, including Catholics, Quakers, Jews and even people who denied the existence of God.

Roger Williams also believed that governments should have no connection to a church. This idea of separating church and state was very new. Later it became one of the most important of all America's governing ideas.


Other colonies were started by people who left Massachusetts to seek land. One was Connecticut. A group led by Puritan minister Thomas Hooker left Boston in 1636 and went west. They settled near the Connecticut River. Others soon joined them.

Other groups from Massachusetts traveled north to find new homes. The king of England had given two friends a large piece of land in the north. The friends divided it. John Mason took what later became the colony of New Hampshire. Ferdinando Gorges took the area that later became the state of Maine. It never became a colony, however. It remained a part of Massachusetts until after the United States was created.

The area known today as New York State was settled by the Dutch. They called it New Netherland. Their country was the Netherlands. It was a great world power, with colonies all over the world. A business called the Dutch West India Company owned most of the colonies.

The Dutch claimed American land because of explorations by Henry Hudson, an Englishman working for the Netherlands. The land the Dutch claimed was between the Puritans in the north and the Anglican tobacco farmers in the south.

The Dutch were not interested in settling the territory. They wanted to earn money. The Dutch West India Company built trading posts on the rivers claimed by the Netherlands. People in Europe wanted to buy goods made from the skins of animals trapped there.

The Purchase of Manhattan
In 1626, the Dutch West India Company bought two islands from the local Indians. The islands are Manhattan Island and Long Island. Traditional stories say the Dutch paid for the islands with some trade goods worth about twenty-four dollars.

The Dutch West India Company tried to find people to settle in America. But few Dutch wanted to leave Europe. So the colony welcomed people from other colonies, and other countries. These people built a town on Manhattan Island. They called it New Amsterdam. It was soon full of people who had arrived on ships from faraway places. It was said you could hear as many as 18 different languages spoken in New Amsterdam.

In 1655, the governor of New Netherland took control of a nearby Swedish colony on Delaware Bay. In 1664, the English did the same to the Dutch. The English seized control of New Amsterdam and called it New York. That ended Dutch control of the territory that now is the states of New York, New Jersey and Delaware.


Most of the Dutch in New Amsterdam did not leave. The English permitted everyone to stay. They let the Dutch have religious freedom. The Dutch were just not in control any more.

The Duke of York owned the area now. He was the brother of King Charles the Second of England. The king gave some of the land near New York to two friends, Sir George Carteret and Lord John Berkeley. They called it New Jersey, after the English island where Carteret was born.

New Amsterdam
The two men wrote a plan of government for their colony. It created an assembly that represented the settlers. It provided for freedom of religion. Men could vote in New Jersey whatever their religion. Soon, people from all parts of Europe were living in New Jersey. Then King Charles took control of the area. He sent a royal governor to rule. But the colonists were permitted to make their own laws through the elected assembly.

The king of England did the same in each colony he controlled. He collected taxes from the people who lived there, but permitted them to govern themselves.


One religious group that was not welcome in England was the Quakers. Quakers call themselves Friends. They believe that each person has an inner light that leads them to God. Quakers believe they do not need a religious leader to tell them what is right. So, they had no clergy.

Quakers believe that all people are equal. The Quakers in England refused to recognize the king as more important than anyone else. They also refused to pay taxes to support the Anglican Church. Quakers believe that it is always wrong to kill. So they would not fight even when they were forced to join the army. They also refuse to promise loyalty to a king or government or flag or anyone but God.

The English did not like the Quakers for all these reasons. Many Quakers wanted to leave England, but they were not welcome in most American colonies. One Quaker changed this. His name was William Penn.

William Penn
William Penn was not born a Quaker. He became one as a young man. His father was an Anglican, and a good friend of the king.

King Charles borrowed money from William's father. When his father died, William Penn asked that the debt be paid with land in America. In 1681, the king gave William Penn land which the King's Council named Pennsylvania, meaning Penn's woods.

The Quakers now had their own colony. It was between the Puritans in the north and the Anglicans in the south. William Penn said the colony should be a place where everyone could live by Quaker ideas.

That meant treating all people as equals and honoring all religions. It also meant that anyone could be elected. In most other colonies, people could believe any religion, but they could not vote or hold office unless they were a member of the majority church. In Pennsylvania, all religions were equal.


This MAKING OF A NATION program was written by Nancy Steinbach and produced by Paul Thompson. This is Sarah Long. And this is Rich Kleinfeldt. Join us again next week for another VOA Special English program about the history of the United States.


1. Roger Williams believed that ________________ .
a: everyone should subscribe to the Puritan faith
b: governments and religions should be separate
c: Indian lands could be lawfully settled by Europeans
d: Quakers, atheists, and Jews should be punished

2. Roger Williams began the colony of _________________ .
a: Rhode Island
b: Massachusetts
c: Vermont
d: Maine

3. The Puritans were _________________ who did not agree with the Anglican Church.
a: Catholics
b: Episcopalians
c: Protestants
d: Atheists

4. William Penn received money to buy land in America because ______________ .
a: he inherited it
b: he was a successful businessman
c: Quaker members donated it
d: the king owed money Penn's father loaned him

5. One belief of the Quakers did not particularly irritate the British government: _____________.
a: the Quakers refused to pay taxes for the Anglican church
b: the Quakers called themselves "friends"
c: the Quakers refused to fight in any wars
d: the Quakers didn't promise loyalty to any government or flag, only God

6. The city of New York used to be called " _________________ ".
a: Maine
b: New Jersey
c: New Amsterdam
d: Providence

7. Long Island and Manhattan Island were purchased by ______________ .
a: The Dutch West India Company
b: William Penn
c: Sir George Carteret
d: the Anglican Church

8. There was no freedom of religion in England or in early _________________ .
a: New Amsterdam
b: Massachusetts
c: New Jersey
d: Pennsylvania

9. Another name for this article could be "_________________".
a: The History of Massachusetts
b: Religion and The Colonies
c: The Dutch West India Company
d: William Penn and The Puritans

10. This article is mainly about _______________________ .
a: New Amsterdam, New York, New Jersey
b: the rise of Puritanism in the colonies
c: the attitudes towards religious freedom in the various colonies
d: the relationship the colonies had with native Americans

A video about Puritans from Youtube:

This is a Youtube video about New Amsterdam, founded in 1624.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

"Happiness" from VOA Explorations.

I’m Bob Doughty. And I’m Faith Lapidus with EXPLORATIONS in VOA Special English. For thousands of years, people have been debating the meaning of happiness and how to find it.

From the ancient Greeks and Romans to current day writers and professors, the debate about happiness continues. What makes someone happy? In what parts of the world are people the happiest? Why even study happiness? Today, we explore these questions and learn about several new books on happiness studies.


The Greek philosopher Aristotle said that a person’s highest happiness comes from the use of his or her intelligence. Religious books such as the Koran and Bible discuss faith as a form of happiness. The British scientist Charles Darwin believed that all species were formed in a way so as to enjoy happiness. And, the United States Declaration of Independence guarantees “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” as a basic human right. People throughout history may have had different ideas about happiness. But today, many people are still searching for its meaning.

But how do you study something like happiness? You could start with the World Database of Happiness at Erasmus University in Rotterdam, The Netherlands. This set of information includes how to define and measure happiness. It also includes happiness averages in countries around the world and compares that information through time.

Some findings are not surprising. For example, the database suggests that married people are happier than single people. People who like to be with other people are happier than unsocial people. And people who have sex a lot are happier than people who do not. But other findings are less expected: People with children are equally happy as couples without children. And wealthier people are only a little happier than poorer people. The database suggests that people who live in strongly democratic and wealthy countries are happier than those who do not.

This database also shows that studying happiness no longer involves just theories and ideas. Economists, psychiatrists, doctors and social scientists are finding ways of understanding happiness by examining real sets of information.

Positive psychology is the new term for a method of scientific study that tries to examine the things that make life worth living instead of life’s problems. Traditional psychology generally studies negative situations like mental suffering and sickness. But positive psychology aims to study the strengths that allow people and communities to do well. Martin Seligman is the director of the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. He says positive psychology has three main concerns: positive emotions, positive individual qualities and positive organizations and communities.

There is also an increasing amount of medical research on the physical qualities of happiness. Doctors can now look at happiness at work in a person’s brain using a method called magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI. For example, an MRI can show how one area of a person’s brain activates when he or she is shown happy pictures. A different area of the brain becomes active when the person sees pictures of terrible subjects.

Doctors are studying brain activity to better understand the physical activity behind human emotions. This research may lead to better understanding of depression and other mental problems.


Happiness is an extremely popular subject for books. If you search for "happiness" on the Web site of the online bookseller,, you will find more than two hundred thousand results. Experts from several areas of study recently published books on the subject.

The historian Darrin McMahon examines the development of happiness in “Happiness: A History.” Mr. McMahon looks at two thousand years of politics and culture in western countries. He says it is only in recent history that people think of happiness as a natural human right.

Darrin McMahon explains how the ancient Greeks thought happiness was linked to luck. He says it was not until the Enlightenment period in eighteenth century Europe that people began to think they had the power to find happiness themselves. He notes that in demanding happiness, people may think something is wrong with them or others if they are not happy. Mr. McMahon sees the pressure to be happy as actually creating unhappiness.

Darrin McMahon says his book will not make readers happier. But he says that by comparing your situation with people throughout history, you can have a better understanding of the idea of happiness.

The journalist Eric Weiner recently wrote a book called “The Geography of Bliss." Mr. Weiner traveled to countries such as Switzerland, Bhutan, Qatar and Thailand to investigate happiness in different parts of the world. He met with experts and talked with local people to try to understand what makes people in different societies happy.

For example, Eric Weiner learned that in Bhutan, the government measures “Gross Domestic Happiness” as a way to tell whether its citizens are happy. Mr. Weiner also traveled to Moldova, a country he says is one of the least happy countries in the world. And he traveled to Iceland because studies show that it is one of the happiest nations in the world.

Mr. Weiner at first could not understand why a country with so little sunlight in the winter and so many alcohol drinkers could be so happy. But, he decided that happiness in Iceland is linked to its close community, striking natural beauty and high levels of creativity. Denmark, another cold country, also has been listed as one of the happiest countries. Mr. Weiner says the United States is the twenty-third happiest country in the world.

Dan Gilbert teaches psychology at Harvard University in Massachusetts. He recently published “Stumbling on Happiness.” Mr. Gilbert looks at the way the human mind is different from other animals because we can think about the future and use our imaginations. He also explains how our minds can trick us in a way that creates difficulties in making happy choices for the future.

For example, a person might think that buying a new car would make him or her happy even though the last car the person bought did not. So, events that we believe will bring us happiness bring us less than we think. And, events we fear will make us unhappy make us less unhappy than we believe. The book provides valuable information on the surprising ways in which our minds work. Here is a recording of Mr. Gilbert talking about this “impact bias.” It was taken from the Big Think Web site.


"Most of the time when people are wrong about how they’ll feel about the future, they’re wrong in the direction of thinking that things will matter to them more than they really do. We are remarkable at our ability to adjust and adapt to almost any situation; but we seem not to know this about ourselves. And so we mistakenly predict that good things will make us happy . . . really happy for a really long time . Bad things, why they’ll just slay us. It turns out neither of these things is by and large true."


Why is studying happiness important? There are many answers to this question. One has to do with understanding happiness in order to create better public policies. Richard Layard is a British economist and lawmaker who studies this subject. His research is influenced by the eighteenth century thinker Jeremy Bentham. Mr. Bentham believed that the goal of public policy was to create the “greatest happiness for the greatest number.”

Richard Layard has looked at the relation between happiness and a country’s wealth. He questions why people in western countries are no happier than they were fifty years ago although they now earn more money.

Mr. Layard believes that part of the problem is that economics and public policy tend to measure a country’s success by the amount of money it makes. He notes that happiness depends on more than the purchasing power of a person or a nation.

Mr. Layard says that public policy should also help people improve the things that lead to happiness such as job security and health. To help improve public health policies in Britain, Mr. Layard has pressed the British government to spend more money on mental health treatment centers. He argues that by helping people recover from mental illness, the government can make a big step in the effort to increase happiness.

Many people have also written songs about happiness. We leave you with this song by the Pointer Sisters about the happiness of being in love.


This program was written and produced by Dana Demange. I’m Bob Doughty.

And I’m Faith Lapidus. You can read and listen to our programs on our Web site, Join us again next week for EXPLORATIONS in VOA Special English.


1. In studies done, it was found that people with children tend to be _____________________ .
a: much happier than people without children
b: not as happy as people without children
c: equally as happy as people without children
d: more stressed than people without children

2. It was also found that wealthier people are ________________ .
a: much happier than poor people
b: equally as happy as poor people
c: not as happy as poor people
d: only slightly happier than poor people

3. Positive psychology studies ___________________.
a: show how affirmations help us live better lives
b: look at things that make life good rather than difficult
c: things that give us problems in order to help us solve them
d: show us the things that don't allow us to do well

4. Happiness was thought to be linked with having luck __________________ .
a: by the ancient Greeks
b: in the 18th Century
c: when we demand it
d: in countries that are the happiest

5. Darrin McMahon say his book shows us _________________________ .
a: how happiness is linked to luck
b: how to be happier
c: how to understand the idea of happiness
d: how to avoid unhappiness

6. Eric Weiner's book shows that people are happy in places like Iceland because _____________________ .
a: there is less sunlight
b: of close communities and a high level of creativity
c: people make more money and have fewer economic problems
d: more people are married and feel connected

7. Dan Gilbert says that most of the time when people are wrong about creating happiness, they think things like _______________________ .
a: purchasing something new will make me happy even if it didn't before
b: I need to be afraid of some things
c: it's important to worry about economic success
d: I'll never be able to adjust to a problem

8. A measure of a country's success doesn't always match its level of happiness because _________________________ .
a: we measure happiness by a country's economic success only
b: countries don't work to help people build success
c: we mistakenly don't measure how many people are married
d: countries don't make an extra effort to help people find work

9. Another title for this article could be "________________________".
a: Happiness is an Inside Job
b: How We Look at Happiness
c: Is It Possible to be Happy?"
d: Luck and Happiness

10. People have been debating the meaning of happiness ________________________ .
a: since psychology became a science
b: for thousands of years
c: since the publication of several books about happiness
d: since the beginning of the Twentieth Century

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

"Mount Everest: The World's Highest Mountain"

Note: This article was written and recorded in June of 2007.

I'm Shirly Griffith. And I'm Steve Ember with EXPLORATIONS in VOA Special English.

Today, we tell about efforts to climb Mount Everest. Last month, an 18-year-old American became one of the youngest people to climb the tallest mountain on Earth. And, a 71-year old Japanese man became the oldest.


Mount Everest is at the border of Nepal and Tibet. It was named for Sir George Everest, who recorded the mountain’s position in 1841. Since 1953, more than 10,000 people have attempted to climb to the top of the world's highest mountain. The summit of Mount Everest is 8,848 meters high.

Climbers have reached the summit more than 3,000 times. However, more than 200 people died while attempting to get there.

They all battled low temperatures. Wind speeds of up to 160 kilometers an hour. Dangerous mountain paths. And they all risked developing a serious health disorder caused by lack of oxygen. All for the chance to reach the top of the world.

The first and most famous of the climbers to disappear on Mount Everest was George Mallory. The British schoolteacher was a member of the first three trips by foreigners to the mountain. In 1921, Mallory was part of the team sent by the British Royal Geographical Society and the British Alpine Club. The team was to create the first map of the area and find a possible path to the top of the great mountain.

Mallory also was a member of the first Everest climbing attempt in 1922. But the attempt was canceled after a storm caused a giant mass of snow to slide down the mountain, killing seven ethnic Sherpa guides.

Mallory was invited back to Everest as lead climber of another expedition team in 1924. On June fourth, Mallory and team member Andrew Irvine left their base camp for the team's final attempt to reach the summit. The climbing team had great hopes of success for the two men. A few days earlier, expedition leader Edward Norton had reached a record height of 8,573 meters before he turned back.

Mallory and Irvine were using bottles of oxygen. Mallory believed that was the only way they would have the energy and speed to climb the last 300 meters to the top and return safely. Team member Noel Odell saw Mallory and Irvine climbing high on the mountain the following day.

Odell said they had just climbed one of the most difficult rocks on the northeast path. He said they were moving toward the top when clouds hid them. He never saw them again. The disappearance of Mallory and Irvine on Mount Everest remains among the greatest exploration mysteries of the last century.


During the next twenty-nine years, teams from Britain made seven more attempts to climb Everest. Until the early 1950s, British teams were the only foreigners given permission to climb Mount Everest.

On May 29, 1953, Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay became the first climbers known to reach the summit of Everest. The two were part of a British team lead by Jon Hunt. They had made a difficult climb from the southeast, through recently opened Nepalese territory.

Edmund Hillary was a beekeeper from New Zealand. It was his second trip to Everest. He had been on the first exploratory trip to the mountain that had mapped the way up from the southern side. Tenzing Norgay was a native Sherpa from Nepal. He was the first Sherpa to become interested in mountain climbing. His climb with Hillary was his seventh attempt to reach the top.

Hillary said his first reaction on reaching the summit was a happy feeling that he had “no more steps to cut." The two men placed the flags of Britain, Nepal, India and the United Nations. Hillary took a picture of Norgay.

They looked out over the north side into Tibet for any signs that Mallory or Irvine had been there before them. Then they began the long and difficult trip back down. The success of Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay led to many new attempts on the mountain. Today, Everest has been climbed from all of its sides and from most of its possible paths.


Reinhold Messner of Italy and Peter Habeler of Austria made another historic Everest climb in 1978. The two men were the first to reach the summit without using bottled oxygen. Messner said when he reached the top he felt like a single giant lung.

At the time, scientists believed that a person at the top of the mountain would only have enough oxygen to sleep. Scientists believed that Messner and Habeler would die without oxygen. Scientists now know that two conditions make climbing at heights over 8,000 meters extremely difficult. The first is the lack of oxygen in the extremely thin air. The second is the low barometric air pressure.

Today, scientists say a person dropped on the top of the mountain would live no more than ten minutes. Climbers can survive above 8,000 meters because they spend months climbing on the mountain to get used to the conditions. Several things have made climbing Everest easier now than it was for the first climbers. These include modern equipment and clothing. They also include information gained from earlier climbs and scientific studies.

Nineteen ninety-three was the 40th anniversary of the first successful climb of Mount Everest. One hundred twenty-nine people climbed to the summit that year. That was a record number. Hundreds of people have reached the summit each year during the past few years. Some expert climbers have begun leading guided trips up the mountain.

Some people have paid as much as 65,000 dollars for the chance to climb Everest. However, many of these people have little climbing experience. This can lead to serious problems.

In 1996, Everest had its greatest tragedy. Fifteen people died attempting to reach the top. This was the deadliest single year in Everest history. A record ten people died on the mountain in one day. Two of the world's best climbers were among those killed.

Several books by climbers have described the incident and the dangerous conditions. The best known is “Into Thin Air” by Jon Krakauer. The book sold many copies around the world and increased the interest in climbing Mount Everest.

Last year, another tragedy on Mount Everest was in the news. Several climbers told news reporters that they had passed a British climber in trouble without stopping to rescue him. David Sharp had been climbing alone, without a guide or teammates. He was lying on a rock 450 meters below the summit. Reports say as many as forty climbers passed Sharp as he lay dying. The climbers who left him there said that rescue efforts would have been useless. He later froze to death.


This year has been reportedly the most successful ever for Mount Everest climbers. More than 500 people have reached the top of the world's highest mountain.

Last month, eighteen-year old Samantha Larson of Long Beach, California became one of the youngest people to reach the top. She made the climb with a group that included her father. Larson is believed to be the youngest person in the world to have climbed all of the "seven summits," the highest mountains on each of the continents.

Also last month, a retired teacher from Japan became the oldest person to reach the top of Mount Everest. Katsusuke Yanagisawa is seventy-one years old. He said climbing the mountain was more difficult than he expected. He said he was not attempting to set a record. Instead, he said he was just trying his hardest not to die.

Another record was set last month. Nepali mountain guide Apa reached the summit for the seventeenth time. That broke his old world record.


This program was written by Shelley Gollust. Mario Ritter was our producer. I'm Shirley Griffith. And I'm Steve Ember. You can see pictures of Special English listeners on our Web site, Join us again next week for EXPLORATIONS in VOA Special English.


1. 1. Mount Everest is named after
a: the Indian name for ‘tall mountain’ 
b: Sir George Everest, a mapmaker
c: the German word for ‘forever’
d: a boxing equipment manufacturer
2. George Mallory
a: was the first person to successfully climb the summit of Mount Everest
b: was the last person to successfully climb the summit of Mount Everest
c: was the first person to die while climbing the summit of Mount Everest
d: invented the marshmallow
3. 1953 is an important year for Mount Everest because
a: in that year, humans successfully climbed to the top
b: the Chinese government built a fence around it
c: explorers found rare flowers near the top
d: one thousand dogs were found on the mountain
The first Nepalese citizen to climb Mount Everest was _______________________ .
a: Edmund Hillary 
b: Paul McCartney
c: Tenzing Norgay
d: Willie Wonka
5. The first flags placed at the summit of Mount Everest included
a: Argentina  
b: Nepal
c: the United States
d: Vietnam
6. The oldest man to climb Mount Everest is a _______________________ .
a: doctor
b: lawyer
c: truck driver
d: teacher
7. It is now easier to climb Mount Everest because _______________________ .
a: the weather isn’t as snowy 
b: giant snakes don’t bite explorers
c: explorers have better clothing and equipment
d: easier pathways have been built
8. The youngest person to climb Mount Everest was
a: an 18-year old girl from Southern California 
b: a 3-year old boy from Italy
c: a 15-year old boy from Nepal
d: Sir Edmund Hillary
9. The most explorers died on Mount Everest ______________________ .
a: after eating potato chips
b: in 1996
c: while reciting the Lord’s Prayer
d: while texting
10. The summit of Mount Everest is more than
a: 20 miles above sea level
b: 8,000 meters above sea level
c: a mile below sea level
d: 1 mile above the moon

Climbing Mount Everest: from Youtube:

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

"Project Mercury, Part Two" from VOA

This is Steve Ember. And this is Shirley Griffith with the VOA Special English program EXPLORATIONS.

Today we finish the story of the first American program to send a person into space. It was called Project Mercury.


The American space agency opened for business October first, nineteen fifty-eight. NASA's most important job was to send an American into space and return him safely to Earth. Project Mercury was the plan for doing this. It would use one of several dependable military rockets to launch a small, one-man spacecraft. The space vehicle would return to Earth and land in the ocean.

Astronauts would be chosen for the program from the best military test pilots who had education in science or engineering.

The idea was simple. But making it happen was not a simple job. Thousands of scientists, engineers, technicians and other workers were needed. And money was needed -- thousands of millions of dollars.

Congress approved the money. NASA organized the program. The McDonnell Company designed and built the spacecraft. The Army and Air Force built the Redstone, Jupiter and Atlas rockets. NASA announced the seven astronauts it had chosen on April ninth, nineteen fifty-nine. They immediately began training for space flight.

No time was wasted. The first test flights began later that year. Those test flights did not carry astronauts. Men would fly the Mercury spacecraft only after it was proved safe.

The final test flight was made at the end of January, nineteen sixty-one. A Mercury spacecraft carried a chimpanzee named Ham on a seven hundred kilometer flight over the Atlantic Ocean. There were some problems. But the animal survived the launch and the landing in the ocean.

Yuri Gagarin
But before NASA could send an astronaut into space, cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin of the Soviet Union became the first person to travel in space. On April twelfth, nineteen-sixty one, he orbited the Earth one time in the Vostok One spacecraft. His space flight lasted one hour and forty-eight minutes.

A month later, on the morning of May fifth, American Navy pilot Alan Shepard crawled into his little Mercury spacecraft. There was almost no room to move inside it. One description said it was like sitting in the driver's seat of a small car, while wearing two heavy raincoats. Alan Shepard waited in the spacecraft for four hours. The weather caused part of the delay. Clouds would prevent filming of the launch. And some last-minute repairs were made to his radio system. Tired of waiting, he told the ground crew: "Why don't you fellows solve your little problems and light this candle. "

Alan Shepard
Finally, they did start the rocket. With a roar, it began to rise slowly from the launch pad. Its speed increased. Soon, it was out of sight.

Shepard's flight lasted only a few seconds longer than fifteen minutes. But he flew one hundred eighty-seven kilometers high, and four hundred eighty kilometers from the launch pad. He re-entered the atmosphere and slowed the Mercury spacecraft. The first flight ended with a soft splash into the ocean, as planned.

Shepard reported: "Everything is A-okay." Within minutes, a helicopter lifted him from the spacecraft and carried him to a waiting ship. The first manned flight of project Mercury was a complete success.

Radio, television and newspaper reporters made it possible for millions of people to share the excitement of the flight. The United States had decided at the very beginning of its space program that all launches would be open to news reporters. Successes and failures would all be reported to the world. Television and news film showed flight preparations and launch. People could hear -- on radio and television -- the talk between the astronaut and the flight controllers.


Gus Grissom
Ten weeks later, there was another Mercury launch. Astronaut Gus Grissom repeated Shepard's successful short flight. But there was a serious problem after the landing. Grissom almost drowned when the door of the spacecraft opened too soon.

The spacecraft filled with water and sank. Grissom escaped. He had to swim for a few minutes before helicopters rescued him.

The results of the two short flights made space officials believe the Mercury program was ready for its first orbital flight. Again, an animal would fly first.

A chimpanzee named Enos was launched on a three-orbit flight. The flight tested the worldwide communications system that linked the spacecraft to flight controllers at Cape Canaveral. It also tested the effect of weightlessness on living creatures.

A problem developed during the second orbit. One of the small thruster rockets that turned the spacecraft stopped working. Flight controllers decided to bring it down at the end of the second orbit. The landing was perfect. Enos suffered no bad effects.

Now, everything was ready for an astronaut to make an orbital flight. NASA announced that the astronaut would be John Glenn. He would circle the Earth three times during a five-hour Mercury flight.

The launch was planned for January twenty-seventh, nineteen sixty-two. But it was postponed for almost a month because of weather and mechanical problems. Finally, on February twentieth, John Glenn climbed into his tiny spacecraft on top of the huge Atlas rocket.

After several short delays, the final seconds were counted off.


Five minutes later, the spacecraft separated from the Atlas rocket. John Glenn was in orbit – one hundred sixty kilometers above the Earth. His speed was twenty-eight thousand kilometers an hour. Glenn reported that all systems were "go." Everything was "A-OK" for an orbital flight.

John Glenn in his
Mercury pressure suit
Glenn's flight plan called for him to spend most of the first orbit getting used to the feeling of being weightless. After about an hour of being beyond the pull of Earth's gravity, Glenn reported he felt fine. He said being weightless was not a problem.

Glenn explained later that at times it helped to be free of gravity. He said he was busy taking pictures when he suddenly had to do something else. So he left the camera floating in the air. It stayed there, as if he had laid it on a table!


Near the end of the first orbit, Glenn reported a problem. One of the small rockets of his automatic control system stopped working. This caused the spacecraft to turn to one side. Glenn solved the problem by turning off the automatic system. He took control of the system to correct the movement.

All of the systems on the Mercury spacecraft sent radio signals to flight controllers. The signals, or telemetry, reported on the condition of the systems.

During the second orbit, one of these signals warned that the heat shield might not be locked firmly to the bottom of the spacecraft. This could be a serious problem. The shield protected the spacecraft from burning up from the extreme heat of re-entering the Earth's atmosphere.

Engineers believed the warning signal was wrong and the shield was locked. But they told Glenn not to release rockets connected to the heat shield. The rockets, normally released before returning to Earth, could help keep a loose heat shield in place.

Near the end of his third orbit, Glenn fired other rockets to slow his speed. The spacecraft began to return to Earth. As it re-entered the atmosphere, radio communications stopped. Flight controllers could no longer hear Glenn. Everyone was worried about the heat shield. The radio silence, caused by the heat of re-entry, lasted for seven minutes. Then the controllers heard the astronaut again.

Glenn reported that he was okay. The heat shield had been locked.

Parachutes lowered the Mercury spacecraft to the ocean surface. Glenn remained inside. A navy ship reached it in seventeen minutes, and lifted it aboard. Glenn opened the door and stepped out.

John Glenn got a hero's welcome when he returned to Cape Canaveral. President John Kennedy flew to Florida and presented a special award to the astronaut. Glenn became famous. He later was elected to the United States Senate from the state of Ohio. And in nineteen ninety-eight, at age seventy-seven, he returned to space in an historic flight.

Gordon Cooper
Three more flights were made in Mercury spacecraft. The last one, by astronaut Gordon Cooper, circled the Earth twenty-one times. It lasted thirty-four hours.

Cooper spent much of the time doing medical checks and taking pictures. His work cleared the way for Project Gemini.

Gemini was the next step toward President Kennedy's goal of landing a man on the moon by the end of the nineteen sixties. Project Mercury astronauts made the goal seem possible.


This Special English program was written by Marilyn Christiano and Frank Beardsley. This is Steve Ember. And this is Shirley Griffith. Listen again next week for another EXPLORATIONS on the Voice of America.


1. Astronaut Gus Grissom's Mercury flight _______________________ .
a: happened before Alan Shepard's flight
b: was a complete success, like Shepard's flight
c: wasn't reported by radio or television
d: had a problem in the ocean because the door of the spacecraft opened too soon

2. Enos was _________________________ .
a: a planet that astronauts visited in the Mercury spacecraft
b: the name of the Soviet rocket that was the first to carry a man into space
c: a chimpanzee that was sent into orbit in order to test the effects of orbital flight on living beings
d: a condition of weightlessness experienced by orbiting astronauts

3. The first two Mercury flights were __________________________ .
a: orbital flights
b: short flights, lasting about fifteen minutes
c: flights where the spacecraft landed in the dessert
d: both entirely free of problems

4. The first person to travel in space was ______________________ .
a: Yuri Gagarin
b: John Glenn
c: Alan Shepard
d: Gus Grissom

5. The last flight of the Mercury spacecraft lasted __________________ .
a: longer than a day
b: shorter than a day
c: fifteen minutes
d: long enough to circle the earth three times

6. Astronaut _____________ with Project Mercury later became a US senator from the state of Ohio.
a: Ham the Chimp
b: Gus Grissom
c: John Glenn
d: Alan Shepard

7. When Alan Shepard said, "Why don't you fellows light this candle," he meant "_____________________ ".
a: I need more light
b: It's my birthday
c: I can't see out of the porthole
d: Start this rocket

8. When one of the small rockets of his automatic control system stopped working, John Glenn solved the problem by ____________________ .
a: immediately taking control and heading for the ocean
b: bringing the spacecraft to a standstill
c: replacing the small rocket with a spare one he carried on the spacecraft
d: turning off the automatic control and manually controlling the system

9.""Telemetry" is ______________________ .
a: a system that allows astronauts to communicate with flight controllers
b: a system that allows flight controllers to monitor spacecraft systems by radio signals
c: a video game astronauts play in order to escape boring routines
d: a type of shield for a spacecraft that is especially strong and can withstand the dangers of outer space

10. There was some doubt that John Glenn would land safely because __________________________ .
a: the door to his spacecraft opened too soon after it landed in the ocean
b: a signal indicated that the heat shield was not locked firmly to the bottom of the spacecraft
c: rockets holding the heat shield to the bottom of the spacecraft were fired prematurely
d: radio communications with John Glenn stopped

Gordon Cooper's Mercury flight, and the last flight of Project Mercury:

Project Mercury: Part One