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AMERICAN MOSAIC - August 17, 2001 - 2001-08-22


Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC, VOA's radio magazine in Special English.


This is Doug Johnson. On our program today:

We play some music made famous on M-T-V ...

answer a question about pensions ...

and, tell about an unusual American, George Dawson.

George Dawson


George Dawson spent the first ninety-eight years of his life doing many different things. Yet he could not read or write. His life changed five years ago, when he decided to go back to school and learn to read and write. Since then, his story has been changing other lives, too. Shep O’Neal has more.


George Dawson was born in the state of Texas. He was the grandson of slaves. He began working on the family farm when he was four. When he was twelve, he worked on a nearby farm to help feed his parents and four younger brothers and sisters. For the next eighty-five years, he held a number of different jobs, most of them involving hard labor.

As a young man, George Dawson traveled often, usually by stealing rides on trains. He visited Mexico. He went to Canada to see snow.

George Dawson lived a happy life even though conditions were difficult. When he was ten years old, he saw a young African-American man murdered. He said his two biggest problems were racial unfairness in America and his inability to read and write.

George Dawson kept it a secret that he could not read. But he said he always dreamed that he would learn. Although he had no education, he taught his children to work hard in school.

George Dawson’s life changed in Nineteen-Ninety-Six. A man came to his house in Dallas, Texas, and told him that adult education classes were being taught at a nearby school. So the man who had signed his name with an “X” for almost one-hundred years went to school.

People wondered why Mister Dawson did not go to school earlier. He said he never had the time because of his farm work. And he never knew about adult education programs.

George Dawson’s efforts to learn to read influenced students of all ages. He spoke to young people about the importance of learning to read and write.

Mister Dawson received many honors for his efforts. He appeared on television shows and received honorary awards from universities. Last year, a schoolteacher from Washington state helped him write a book about his life. The book is called “Life Is So Good.”

George Dawson died last month at the age of one-hundred-three. He attended school every day until his death.



Our VOA listener question this week comes in an e-mail from Japan. Teruko Hagiya asks about the pension system in the United States.

A pension is the money that a worker or his or her family receives after a worker retires, is unable to work or dies. People have pension plans from working in private industry, in the armed forces or in government. People can also establish their own pension plans. Many of those who create their own plans work for themselves or for a company that does not provide a pension plan.

Reports say most American workers have some kind of pension plan. Most pensions of people who worked for the government are paid for with money that came jointly from workers and their agencies. Most private pension plans are paid for by the employer.

A federal government program called Social Security provides money to most American workers after they retire. Social Security is the largest retirement program in the United States. Workers pay into the program a percent of what they earn each month. Their employers do the same.

Most self-employed people also pay into Social Security. These people then will receive money each month after they retire for as long as they live.

The Social Security program was established in Nineteen-Thirty-Five. It was never meant to fully support someone who has no other money. Especially today, money received from Social Security is not enough to provide for most people’s needs.

Many companies have their own retirement plans for their workers. Federal law requires companies to give pension rights to all people who have worked for the company for a set number of years. People can also establish individual pension plans through banks or insurance companies. They put in so much money each month, then receive payments after they reach about sixty-five years of age.

Most Americans say they cannot live as they would like on money provided by only one pension plan. So they have more than one. For example, a man who retires after twenty years of military service receives pension money each month from the federal government. He may also collect money from the Social Security system, and from other private investments he has made.

MTV Anniversary


The television company M-T-V celebrated its twentieth anniversary earlier this month. It has become the biggest television network in the world. MTV is known for its short movies of the music of popular artists. Shirley Griffith tells us about the history of M-T-V and plays some of the music its videos have made famous.


M-T-V broadcast its first music video on August first, Nineteen-Eighty-One. It was made by a group called the Buggles. The name of the song is “Video Killed the Radio Star.”


Radio is still very much alive. But, M-T-V did grow to be as important as radio to the creators of popular music.

M-T-V reaches almost three-hundred-fifty-million houses in one-hundred-forty countries around the world. It is broadcast in seventeen languages. This year, M-T-V will probably earn seven-hundred-million dollars just from selling broadcast time to companies that want to advertise their products.

M-T-V played music videos twenty-four hours a day when it first began broadcasting. Later, it created shows like “Real World.” That show records the lives of young people as they live together in houses in different cities of the world. Television critics consider “Real World” the first reality television program.

Some videos on M-T-V seem like Hollywood movies. In Nineteen-Eighty-Three, Michael Jackson created a fourteen-minute video that became extremely famous. Here is : “Thriller.”


We leave you now with a song that will be recognized by M-T-V fans all over the world. It has become the unofficial song of M-T-V. It is Dire Straits singing “Money for Nothing.”



This is Doug Johnson. I hope you enjoyed our program today. And I hope you will join us again next week for AMERICAN MOSAIC — VOA’s radio magazine in Special English.

This AMERICAN MOSAIC program was written by Cynthia Kirk, Nancy Steinbach and Caty Weaver. Our studio engineer was Tom Verba. And our producer was Paul Thompson.