Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC in VOA Special English.
I'm Doug Johnson. This week:
We go to a birthday party for folk singer Pete Seeger,
who turned ninety this month ...
we will answer a question about religion and government in America ...
But first, a report on a "green" project for a very famous
building in New York City.
Empire State Building Goes Green
The tallest building in New York City is "going
green." No…the Empire State Building is
not being painted. But it is getting an
environmental make-over. Faith Lapidus tells about the planned changes.
Empire State Building opened in nineteen thirty-one. It stands just over four hundred forty-three
meters tall. For many years it was the tallest building in the world.
will be one of the world's greenest. The owners of the historic building say a
planned make-over will reduce energy use in the building by thirty-eight
percent. They say it will save more than
four million dollars a year in energy costs.
The Empire State Building has six thousand five hundred
windows. New, special, thick glass will
replace the glass currently in the windows. This insulated glass will make the
inside of the building cooler in summer and warmer in winter.
Rode is a leader of the renovation project. He says the windows will insulate
almost as well as the walls they are connected to. Workers will also add energy efficient lights
and improved building control systems. These will include more modern air cooling and heating systems. The effort will help reduce carbon dioxide
releases from the Empire State Building by more than one hundred thousand tons
a year. Carbon dioxide is one of the
gases that causes the warming of Earth's atmosphere.
Building owners say such make-overs are very important
to reduce levels of greenhouse gases in New York. They say eighty percent of these gases come
from city buildings.
project is to be completed in four years. The first improvements will cost twenty million dollars. But Paul Rode says it is a sensible financial
Religion and Government in America
Our listener question this week comes from China.
Candice wants to know if there is a state religion in the United States. The
answer is no and the reason why goes back to the early days of America's
In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, many
Europeans moved to colonial America in part to escape religious oppression.
Thomas Jefferson and other early American leaders purposely designed a national
government that had no established religion. They wanted to build a country
that included many religions, where citizens were free to follow their own
First Amendment of the Constitution supports religious freedom and places
religion outside the reach of the government. It states: "Congress shall make
no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free
This idea is often described as "the separation of
church and state." President Jefferson himself used this expression. In
eighteen-oh-two, he sent a letter to a religious group in the state of
Connecticut. He said that the First Amendment works by "building a wall of
separation between church and state."
the First Amendment applies to life in America has often been disputed. There is deep opposition between people who
support nonreligious government policies and those who want religious values to
be considered. The Supreme Court has heard many cases that test the meaning of
the First Amendment.
For example, the Supreme Court ruled in nineteen
forty-eight that religious classes could not be taught in public schools. In
nineteen sixty-two the Court decided that public schools could not require
students to say prayers.
church and state debate is still going on today. For some people, policies
about stem-cell research, same-sex marriage and abortion rights threaten
religious beliefs. Other people believe it is wrong to ban these practices
because of religious beliefs.
Even though there is no state religion in America,
there is a large, beautiful religious center in the nation's capital called the
Washington National Cathedral. The
official name of this Episcopal church is the Cathedral Church of Saint Peter
and Saint Paul. But an official says the church calls itself the Washington
National Cathedral because many services of national interest have been held
there. These include the funerals of three American presidents and national
prayer services. This church receives no federal money and operates entirely on
Pete Seeger's 90th Birthday Party
You may not know Pete Seeger by name but you probably
have heard his music. He has been
writing songs and playing banjo for seventy years. Pete Seeger was
born on May third, nineteen nineteen in New York City. That is where he celebrated his ninetieth
birthday. Mario Ritter has our report on
Pete Seeger and his party.
Thousands of people gathered at Madison Square Garden
for a concert to honor Pete Seeger and his music. Artists of all ages joined Seeger on stage to
sing the folk and protest songs that he made popular, like this one, "If I Had
PETE SEEGER: "If I didn't think music could help save
the human race, I wouldn't be making music."
Seeger first became famous in the nineteen forties as a member of the Almanac
Singers. He then helped form the
Weavers. In nineteen fifty they had a
huge hit with "Goodnight Irene," a song by blues musician Leadbelly.
Pete Seeger left the Weavers for an independent
career. And he continued to be
successful. But Seeger says he never planned on becoming a musician. He saw music as a way to bring about
political change. He sought world peace,
social justice, civil rights and workers' rights.
recently, environmental conservation has become a chief issue for the
musician. In fact, the profits from
Seeger's big birthday concert went to Hudson River Sloop Clearwater. Pete Seeger established the non-profit group
in nineteen sixty-nine. Its goal is to
care for and protect the Hudson River and waters linked to it.
Emmylou Harris performing "The Water is Wide" at the concert. Other musical guests included Bruce
Springsteen, Joan Baez, Ani DiFranco, Richie Havens and Taj Mahal.
course the birthday celebrant himself sang and played banjo as well. We leave you now with Pete Seeger performing
his version of Woody Guthrie's "This Land is Your Land."
I'm Doug Johnson.
This program was written by Dana Demange and Caty
Weaver, who also was the producer. For
transcripts, MP3s and podcasts of our programs, go to
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us again next week for AMERICAN MOSAIC, VOA's radio magazine in Special