Accessibility links

Breaking News

AMERICAN MOSAIC - May 3, 2002: George Mason / Music from The Band / Question About the International Space Station - 2002-05-02


Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC — VOA’s radio magazine in Special English.


This is Doug Johnson. On our program today we:

Play some music from The Band ...

Answer a question about the International Space Station ...

And learn about a little known hero of American history.

George Mason


Washington, D.C., has many memorials. Some honor former presidents. Others honor Americans who fought in wars.

Recently, a crowd gathered near the Potomac River for the opening of the George Mason National Memorial. It is in a garden, near colorful flowers and a water fountain. A metal statue of a man sits on a seat. A few of his most famous writings are on a nearby stone wall. George Mason was responsible for the first American bill of rights. Shep O’Neal tells us about him.


George Mason held few public offices. Yet his ideas influenced both the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights in the United States Constitution. Later, his ideas were used in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Rights.

George Mason was born in the colony of Virginia in Seventeen-Twenty-Five. He studied law and supervised his family’s property. Mister Mason became active in his community. He was famous for opposing the British colonial government. However, he refused public office many times. He enjoyed being a private citizen.

Finally, George Mason became a delegate to the Virginia Convention in Seventeen-Seventy-Five. The following year, he was chosen to write Virginia’s Declaration of Rights. It became his most important work.

The Virginia Declaration of Rights has been called the first American bill of rights. The declaration called for freedom of the press. It called for an official policy that permitted different religions. It also declared an individual’s right to a fair and speedy trial.

A few years later, George Mason took part in creating the United States Constitution. However, he strongly disagreed with parts of it. He objected to a compromise that permitted the importation of slaves to continue until Eighteen-Oh-Eight. Mister Mason owned slaves, but he was one of the few southern state delegates to oppose slavery. He believed that slaves should be educated and later freed. George Mason had other concerns about the proposed Constitution. He wanted a bill of rights to protect individuals against possible interference by the federal government.

George Mason refused to sign the Constitution. And he opposed the document when it was offered to the states for approval. But he lived to see the Bill of Rights added to the Constitution in Seventeen-Ninety-One. That was one year before George Mason died.

International Space Station


Our VOA listener question this week comes from Laos. Bouahom Damrong asks about the International Space Station.

Some scientists have called the International Space Station the largest and most important international scientific project in history. The Space Station will be a permanent laboratory to test new industrial materials and communications devices and to carry out medical research. The space station will be used for such research because gravity, temperature and pressure can be controlled and changed in ways impossible to do in laboratories on Earth.

The building of the International Space Station began in Nineteen-Ninety-Eight with the launch of the Zarya spacecraft from Russia. Project planners say it will take about forty-four launches of Russian rockets and American space shuttles to complete the structure. They hope to have the work done by Two-Thousand-Four.

The complete space station will be one-hundred-nine meters across and eighty-eight meters long. It will weigh more than four-hundred-fifty-thousand kilograms.

Large devices that collect sunlight and change it to electric power will extend over an area of almost one-half hectare. The space station will provide working and living areas for a crew of up to seven astronauts and scientists. These areas will be about the same size as two huge passenger planes.

The International Space Station is a joint effort of the United States, Canada, Japan, Russia, Brazil and eleven members of the European Space Agency. Many of these countries build parts for the space station. Each piece is then taken into space and linked together by astronauts.

American astronauts and Russian cosmonauts have been living on the space station for more than a year. They have already completed several scientific experiments. The first crew of three to live on the space station left Earth in October, Two-Thousand and spent more than one-hundred-thirty-eight days there. The fifth group is expected to arrive in June and leave in October.

The United States space agency’s Kennedy Space Center Internet Web site provides much more information about the International Space Station. The Internet address is

The Band


A famous rock and roll group called the Band was popular in the nineteen-sixties and nineteen-seventies. It is popular again because of a movie and an album called “The Last Waltz.” Mary Tillotson tells us more.


The members of the group first started performing with singer Ronnie Hawkins as the Hawks. Then Bob Dylan asked them to perform with him. In Nineteen-Sixty-Eight, they began performing on their own as the Band. The Band’s songs are like many traditional American songs -- they tell stories. This song is about the Civil War between the northern and southern states in the Eighteen-Sixties. It is called “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.”


The Band decided to stop performing in Nineteen-Seventy-Six. The members held one last concert in San Francisco, California. They asked several famous artists to perform with them.

Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell and Muddy Waters appeared with them. A famous Hollywood movie director, Martin Scorsese, filmed the concert.

Some critics have called “The Last Waltz” one of the greatest rock and roll movies of all time. It is now being shown again in several American cities. A new album of music from the concert also has been released. Here is one of the songs from the movie and the album. It is called “Rag Mama Rag.”


Experts say the Band’s music influenced many other performers. They say its music still sounds powerful and new, more than twenty-five years later. We leave you now with the Band performing “It Makes No Difference.”



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 Shelley Gollust, George Grow and Nancy Steinbach. Our studio engineer was Curtis Bynum. And our producer was Paul Thompson.