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Abigail Washburn: American Bluegrass Music, by Way of China

Katharine Gypson and Dana Demange


HOST: Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC, in VOA Special English.

I'm Doug Johnson. On our show this week:

We hear some music from Abigail Washburn …

Answer a question about the Kyoto Protocol …

And report about a newly elected mayor who is only eighteen years old.

Eighteen-Year Old Mayor

Michael Sessions will soon have more than just schoolwork to keep him busy. This high school student from Hillsdale, Michigan ran for mayor. And he won! Faith Lapidus tells us more.

FAITH LAPIDUS: Eighteen-year-old Michael Sessions is a teenager with a very adult job. He will be the youngest mayor in the history of Hillsdale, Michigan. Last week he defeated the current mayor, fifty-one year old Doug Ingles.

Hillsdale has a population of about eight thousand people. Michael Sessions says that not much is happening in the town. He says the community is losing jobs and all the local college graduates are leaving town. To change this, Mister Sessions decided to run for mayor. He said he wanted to bring new ideas to his troubled town. His campaign was not easy.

When Michael Sessions first tried to get on the ballot last year, he learned that he was too young. He could not get on the ballot until he turned eighteen in September. By that time, election day was only seven weeks away. So the young man started a write-in campaign. He spent all the money he earned during the summer to pay for signs to spread his campaign message.

Every day after school Mister Sessions did his homework and then visited people in their homes. He urged voters to write his name on the ballot in order to vote for him. At first, the people of Hillsdale were surprised by the young age of this candidate. Then they realized that Michael Sessions had energy and good ideas. He promised to work hard to make Hillsdale a better place.

When Mister Sessions won the election last week, many reporters with television cameras came to his school to interview him. But he was not the only teenager elected to office last week. Eighteen-year-old Christopher Seeley from Linesville, Pennsylvania was also elected mayor.

Michael Sessions will begin his new job Monday. He plans to set up an advisory team to work with the city manager who runs the town’s day-to-day operations. Being mayor is a part-time position. So Michael Sessions can still continue his studies. But the job does not provide an office. So where will he work? In his bedroom, after he finishes his homework, of course.

Kyoto Protocol

HOST: Our VOA listener question this week comes from Ankara, Turkey. Yusuf Deniz Ynan asks for information about the Kyoto Protocol.

The Kyoto Protocol is a plan created by the United Nations for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The plan aims to reduce the amount of pollution released into the environment. Some scientists say carbon dioxide and other industrial gases are to blame for climate change around the world. The scientists say such gases build up in the atmosphere and trap heat below. They say this results in increasing temperatures and rising sea levels.

The plan is called the Kyoto Protocol because it was negotiated in Kyoto, Japan in nineteen ninety-seven. The goal of the agreement is to reduce the amount of emissions -- industrial gases released -- to below the levels of nineteen ninety.

Nations responsible for at least fifty-five percent of the world’s industrial carbon dioxide emissions had to approve the agreement before it could go into effect. The European Union and many other industrial nations quickly approved the Kyoto Protocol. They receive credit for their own emissions if they invest in cleaner technologies in developing nations. Developing nations do not have to meet the emissions requirements of the agreement.

The United States produced thirty-six percent of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions in nineteen ninety. But the United States refused to approve the Kyoto Protocol. Before the Protocol was negotiated, the United States Senate voted that any treaty harmful to the economy of the United States could not be signed. President Bush has said that he supports the general idea of the treaty but will not send the treaty to the Senate for approval.

Mister Bush said that the agreement sets unfair differences between industrial and developing nations. He also said that the treaty could cause some Americans to lose their jobs.

After the United States rejected the Kyoto Protocol, approval by Russia was necessary for the agreement to come into force. Russia approved the Protocol in November, two thousand four. The Kyoto Protocol went into effect on February sixteenth, two thousand five. One hundred fifty-seven countries have approved the agreement.

Abigail Washburn


Today we introduce an American singer and banjo player named Abigail Washburn. Miz Washburn is not your average musician influenced by bluegrass music. She learned to love traditional American music by first living in China. Pat Bodnar tells us more.

PAT BODNAR: Abigail Washburn was born in the state of Illinois. In nineteen ninety-six, during her first year at Colorado College, she joined a summer program trip to China. Living in China had a great influence on her. Studying Chinese and learning about Chinese culture made her want to explore her own country’s traditional music.

When she returned home, Miz Washburn bought a banjo. She soon became influenced by bluegrass and old-time Appalachian mountain music.


That was “Coffee’s Cold” from Miz Washburn’s new album called “Song of the Traveling Daughter.” She made this album after playing with other musicians. She wrote most of the songs on the album, including “Eve Stole the Apple.” This song is influenced by the music of two early American bluegrass performers.


Miz Washburn has not forgotten her love of Chinese culture. She has traveled to China several times. In fact, she is performing in Beijing now and will be performing in Shanghai at the end of the month. To find out about these performances, you can visit her Web site at

Miz Washburn says she is caught between two cultures, but she likes being a bridge. We leave you now with “The Lost Lamb” which Abigail Washburn wrote and performs in Mandarin.


HOST: I'm Doug Johnson. I hope you enjoyed our program.

Our show was written by Katherine Gypson and Dana Demange. Our producer was Caty Weaver.

Send your questions about American life to Please include your full name and mailing address. Or write to American Mosaic, VOA Special English, Washington, D.C., two-zero-two-three-seven, U.S.A.

Join us again next week for AMERICAN MOSAIC, VOA’s radio magazine in Special English.