Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC, in VOA Special English.
I'm Doug Johnson. On our show this week:
We listen to some music from the movie "Into the Wild"…
Answer a question about a famous American landmark…
And report about a special anniversary for Veterans' Day.
Anniversary of the Wall
November eleventh is Veterans Day in the United States. It is the day Americans remember those who have fought in the nation's wars. This year is a special one at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. That memorial honors American men and women who served in the Vietnam War. Faith Lapidus has more.
This year is the twenty-fifth anniversary of the part of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial known as the Wall. The Wall is two large,shiny, black stones built into the ground, forming the letter V. The names of more than fifty-eight thousand Americans are cut into the stone.
These are the names of those who died or who are missing as a result of their service in Vietnam. As part of the anniversary observance, the names of all those listed on the Wall are being read aloud this week.
The Wall has the power to create strong feelings. The shiny black stone acts like a mirror. It seems to draw in visitors so that they too are part of the Wall. This is especially emotional for those visitors who served in Vietnam and for the family members of those killed there.
Vietnam Veteran Jan Scruggs thought of the idea for the memorial as a way to honor those killed in one of America's most divisive wars. He formed an organization to build the memorial. In nineteen eighty, a competition was held to choose the design. Judges considered more than one thousand designs. They chose the design of a twenty-one-year-old Yale University student, Maya Lin.
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial was officially opened on November thirteenth, nineteen eighty-two. The design of the memorial caused great debate. Supporters thought it was simple and powerful. But some people said it was not personal enough and did not show the heroic efforts of those who fought in the war.
As a result, other structures were added to the memorial. They are the Three Servicemen Statue and the Vietnam Women's Memorial statue. A special plaque honors those who died later as a result of injuries from the war.
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial is the most visited memorial in the nation's capital. More than four million people visit each year. Some visitors make a copy of one of the names on the Wall. Others leave a special object of love and remembrance. Visitors have left tens of thousands of such objects at the Wall. These include flowers, letters, poems, toys, photographs, baseballs and military medals. These objects are links between those who were killed and those who will always remember them.
The Gateway Arch
Our listener question this week comes from Russia. Andrey Lopatin wants to know about the Gateway Arch in Saint Louis, Missouri. This famous curved steel structure next to the Mississippi River rises one hundred ninety-two meters in the air. This is the same distance between the arch’s two legs. The Gateway Arch is the tallest freestanding federal monument in the United States.
Plans for the arch developed in the nineteen thirties. During this time, the city of Saint Louis decided to build a federal monument to honor the westward expansion of the United States during the nineteenth century. In eighteen oh three, President Thomas Jefferson had bought more than two million square kilometers of land from France, including what would become the state of Missouri.
The Louisiana Purchase doubled the size of the United States at the time. This famous land deal made it possible for the young American nation to expand and grow. The next year, President Jefferson hired Meriwether Lewis and William Clark to explore this large new area of land. The Lewis and Clark Expedition started just west of Saint Louis. So Saint Louis became known as the Gateway to the West.
The Jefferson National Expansion Park was established in nineteen thirty-five. The federal government and city of Saint Louis agreed to share the building costs. During the nineteen forties, city officials created a national competition among building designers to decide what form the new monument would take.
The Finnish-American architect Eero Saarinen won the competition in nineteen forty-eight. Building the arch finally began in nineteen sixty-three was completed two years later. The arch is an example of excellent structural engineering. The shape of the structure is called an inverted catenary curve. This is the form a free-hanging heavy rope or metal chain takes when it is hung between two supports.
Each year, about one million visitors ride special vehicles to the top of the Gateway Arch to enjoy its history and expansive views of Saint Louis.
"Into The Wild"
“Into the Wild” is a new movie that tells the true story of a young man named Christopher McCandless. In the nineteen nineties, he dropped out of society after college to test himself in the American wilderness. Actor Sean Penn wrote and directed the movie, which is based on a book by Jon Krakauer.
Penn asked his friend, the singer Eddie Vedder, to write the music for this powerful film. The songs help express the inner voice and personal discovery of this brave young man. Barbara Klein has more.
That was Eddie Vedder singing “No Ceiling.” You might recognize his voice. Vedder is the lead singer for the rock band Pearl Jam. This is the first album in which he performs on his own. Vedder says that when he read the book “Into the Wild” and started to write songs for the movie, the story of Christopher McCandless took control of him.
For two years, this young man traveled through deserts, down rivers, and up mountains in the western United States. He traveled all the way to the northern state of Alaska. On the road, he met many people and influenced them with his intense and intelligent personality. Here is the song “Hard Sun.”
Christopher McCandless did not survive his adventure. Some people have noted that he really was not prepared to survive in the wild. He died of starvation at the age of twenty-four, all alone in the Alaskan wilderness. But the story of his independence and desire to live in the simple beauty of nature lives on.
We leave you with the song “Society.” In it, Eddie Vedder imagines the thoughts of Chris McCandless as he says goodbye to the rules and demands of society in order to lively freely on his own.
I'm Doug Johnson. I hope you enjoyed our program today. It was written by Dana Demange and Nancy Steinbach. Caty Weaver was our producer. To read the text of this program and download audio, go to our Web site, voaspecialenglish.com.
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