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, Amazon.com, 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, voaspecialenglish.com. 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