Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC in VOA Special English.
I'm Doug Johnson. This week:
We listen to new music from Ben Harper …
answer a listener question about the White House ...
first, a report on entertainers who lend their fame and more to social,
political and environmental efforts
Movie stars and musicians are experts at getting the
attention of the media and public. More and more of these famous people are
using their popularity to bring attention to humanitarian and environmental
causes that are important to them. Some people say these famous "diplomats"
help to humanize an issue. Mario Ritter tells us more.
Leonardo DiCaprio is best known for his roles as
adventurous young men in popular movies including "Titanic," "The Aviator" and
"Blood Diamond." But the thirty-four year old actor has taken on an important
role in real life as well.
ten years ago, he created the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation. Its aim is to
increase public awareness about environmental issues by working with other
organizations. Two years ago, DiCaprio worked on a movie called "The Eleventh
Hour." It is about the damaging effects
of climate change and other environmental problems affecting the planet.
The actress Angelina Jolie is another famous American
who has become a social activist. Since two thousand one she has worked with
the United Nations Refugee Agency to raise public awareness about the serious
problems of refugees around the world. She has visited many countries and donated millions of dollars to help
refugees and children in need. She says
that people should praise refugees for what they have survived. Angelina Jolie
has been called the most respected celebrity humanitarian.
Peter Kessler works with the U.N. Refugee Agency. He believes
that famous "diplomats" help bring a human face to important causes.
PETER KESSLER: "As we saw with Princess Diana when she
first held the hand of an AIDS victim, it's spreading that message that these
people are safe. They're not a threat, they're threatened. And you also can
reach out to them in your own way. You don't have to be a VIP celebrity."
Some experts say famous people may bring public
awareness to an issue. But this increased attention does not mean anything
without effective action.
The actress Mia Farrow has traveled to refugee camps in
Sudan more than twelve times. She recently took action in a very personal way.
Mia Farrow began a hunger strike to protest the situation of refugees in
Darfur. She has written messages on her Web site that describe her
experience. She links her own situation
with the daily experience of millions of hungry and sick refugees in Darfur.
The White House
question this week comes from Vietnam. Khoa Pham wants to know more about the
White House, home of the American president and his family.
House was the largest house in the country until after the Civil War in the
eighteen sixties. The White House has one hundred thirty-two rooms, including
sixteen family and guest rooms, thirty-five bathrooms and three kitchens. There
are six levels. The first level has many
famous rooms. For example, the West Wing of the White House includes the Oval
is where the president works and meets with his advisers. The president receives guests in the Blue
Room. And the State Dining Room can hold
one hundred forty people for official dinners in honor of foreign leaders.
The second and third floors are the family's
private areas. When it is cold outside,
the president and his family can warm up near one of the White House's
twenty-eight fireplaces. And when it is
hot outside, they can swim in the outdoor pool.
White House offers lot of things to do for entertainment. The first family can watch a movie in the
small theater, play ping-pong in the family game room or bowl in the small
bowling alley. Former President Richard
Nixon had the bowling alley built in nineteen sixty-nine. The White House's newest occupant, Barack
Obama, is not much of a bowler. But he
is a big fan of basketball. He has
already been seen shooting hoops on the basketball court outside. President
Obama is said to be considering replacing the bowling alley with an indoor
The Obama family recently added an outdoor
playground for their two young daughters. It has a swing set, a climbing section, a slide and a tire for
swinging. The Obamas can also play
tennis on a court on the South Lawn, hit a few golf balls on the putting greens
or run around the jogging track.
The White House has been home to forty-three
presidents. America's first president, George Washington supervised the
building process which began in seventeen ninety-two. But he never lived
there. John and Abigail Adams became the
building's first family in eighteen hundred. Since then, the White House has
experienced many changes. And each
presidential family has left its own historical mark on America's most famous
Ben Harper is back with his own special kind of blues
music. His music is a mix of many
different styles. Faith Lapidus has
As a boy, Ben Harper spent a lot of time at his
grandparents' record store called The Folk Music Center and Museum in
California. By the age of twenty-three
he was performing with the famous blues musician Taj Mahal. You can hear the influence of these
experiences in his music, a mix of folk, blues, rock and fusion.
That was "Shimmer and Shine," the first release from Ben
Harper's new CD, "White Lies for Dark Times. It is Harper's first CD with his new band, Relentless Seven. Harper took his band on the road last year as
part of the effort to get young people to vote. The group began many of its performances with this song, "Up to You
The members of Relentless Seven all come from Texas. Guitarist Jason Mozersky worked part-time
driving bands back and forth to a performance center in Texas. Mozersky was lucky enough to get Ben Harper
as a passenger. He played his music for
Harper and the rest, as they say, is history. We leave you with the opening track from "White Lies for Dark
Times." Here is "Number with No Name."
I'm Doug Johnson. I hope you enjoyed our program today.
It was written by Dana Demange and June Simms. Caty Weaver was the producer. For transcripts, MP3s and podcasts of our
programs, go to voaspecialenglish.com.
your questions about American life to email@example.com. Please include your full name and where you
us again next week for AMERICAN MOSAIC, VOA's radio magazine in Special