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Getting to Know the New First Family

Also: A question from Japan about Martin Luther King Junior. And music by some of the performers set to appear at Barack Obama's inauguration. Transcript of radio broadcast:


Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC in VOA Special English.


I'm Doug Johnson. This week:

We listen to musicians who will perform at the inauguration of Barack Obama as the forty-fourth president of the United States …

Tell about Michelle Obama and other members of the family moving into the White House …

And answer a listener question about civil rights leader Reverend Martin Luther King Junior.


The First Family


On Tuesday, Barack Obama becomes the forty-fourth president of the United States. Over the past two years, he has become one of the most famous men in the world. But he did not get to the White House alone. He is moving into Sixteen Hundred Pennsylvania Avenue with his wife, Michelle, their two daughters and Michelle's mother. Katherine Cole has more about the other members of the Obama family.


Michelle Obama was born and raised on the south side of Chicago, Illinois. Her father, Fraser, worked for the city's water department. Her mother, Marian, was a homemaker. The family did not have a lot of money.

Michele Obama celebrates her forty-fifth birthday Saturday, just three days before she becomes America's First Lady. She has had many successes in her life. She graduated with honors from Chicago public schools, Princeton University and Harvard University Law School. She worked for a top law firm in Chicago where she met her future husband. She also worked for a public service organization and for the University of Chicago.

Michelle Obama says her daughters are the source of her greatest pride. She says raising Malia, age ten, and Sasha, age seven, will continue to be her most important job. In fact, the next First Lady has called her White House position, "Mom-in-Chief."

Malia and Sasha will be guided by another motherly presence at their new Washington home. Last week, the Obamas announced that Marian Robinson would move into the White House with the Obamas and help take care of the girls.

Malia and Sasha started their new school, Sidwell Friends School, on January fifth. Chelsea Clinton also attended this private school when her father was president. Malia, a fifth grader, attends the middle school in Washington. Sasha, a second grader, is in elementary school in nearby Bethesda, Maryland.

There is one future member of the Obama family we have not yet talked about. This one has four legs and fur. Maybe you remember Barack Obama's victory speech on election night, November fourth. He said his daughters had "earned the new puppy that's coming with us to the White House." This week, the Obamas said they had narrowed their dog search to two kinds. They are working with animal shelters to find either a Portuguese water dog or a Labradoodle. A Labradoodle is a mix of Labrador retriever and a poodle.

Both breeds generally shed less fur than some other kinds of dogs. They are better dogs for people who suffer from allergies, like Malia Obama.


Martin Luther King


Our listener question this week comes from Japan. Misato Miyauchi wants to know more about the civil rights leader and Christian clergyman Martin Luther King Junior.

January fifteenth was the Reverend King's birthday. He would have been eighty years old. The United States observes his birthday every year with a federal holiday. This year it will be observed on Monday, January nineteenth.

Martin Luther King Junior was born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia. He was a good student and went to college when he was just fifteen years old.

Martin discovered he had special skill in public speaking. He decided to study religion. He was greatly influenced by the Indian spiritual and political leader, Mahatma Gandhi. He studied Gandhi's teachings of non-violence and social justice.

During the nineteen fifties and sixties, Mister King led a campaign of nonviolent protests. He sought to end racial separation laws and other discrimination against African-Americans in the United States.

Mister King organized what is probably the most famous civil rights demonstration in America. The March on Washington took place in August of nineteen sixty-three. About two hundred fifty thousand people demonstrated in the nation's capital. They demanded more jobs and freedom for black Americans. Martin Luther King Junior stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and gave one of the most famous speeches in American History.

MARTIN LUTHER KING: "I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up, live out the true meaning of its creed: 'We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.' I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood."

His efforts led to passage of the Civil Rights Act of nineteen Sixty-four. That same year, he won the Nobel Peace Prize. On April fourth, nineteen sixty-eight, the Reverend King was in Memphis, Tennessee, to organize a workers' strike. He was thirty-nine years old and had become the nation's chief civil rights leader. He was standing outside his hotel room when a gunman shot and killed him.

Martin Luther King Junior once said "everybody can be great, because anybody can serve." The holiday that honors him is called a National Day of Service. On Monday, President-elect Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, will join thousands of people across the United States who will be volunteering in their communities.

MARTIN LUTHER KING: "If you want to be great, wonderful, but recognize that he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. That's a new definition of greatness."


Inaugural Music


The Marine Corps Band, Aretha Franklin, Yo-Yo Ma. Those are some of the musicians who will perform at the presidential inauguration of Barack Obama on Tuesday. Barbara Klein tells about the artists and plays some of the music that made them great.



That is the San Francisco Girls Chorus singing "Vivos Voco." The Chorus was established in nineteen seventy-eight.

It trains more than three hundred girls, ages seven through eighteen, in choral singing. They come from more than one hundred sixty schools in the San Francisco, California, area.

The San Francisco Boys Chorus will also perform at the inauguration. It includes more than two hundred forty singers starting at age five. The Boys Chorus celebrated its sixtieth anniversary last year. Here the group sings "An American Hymn."


Four very famous classical musicians will also perform at the inauguration. Cellist Yo-Yo Ma, violinist Itzhak Perlman, pianist Gabriela Montero and clarinetist Anthony McGill will play a work written by composer John Williams for the event. Mister Williams will also conduct.

Yo-Yo Ma, Itzhak Perlman and John Williams all worked together on the music for the movie "Memoirs of a Geisha." Here is "Going to School," from that film.


Finally, the Presidential Inaugural Committee chose one of America's greatest singers to perform on January twentieth. We leave you with the "Queen of Soul," Aretha Franklin, singing "I Dreamed a Dream."



I'm Doug Johnson. I hope you enjoyed our program today. It was written and produced by Caty Weaver. You can learn more about Presidential Inaugurations Monday on our program This is America.

And to watch live coverage of the Inauguration on Tuesday, go to our Web site, and click on USA Votes 2008.

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