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AMERICAN MOSAIC - August 30, 2002: Dolly Parton's New Album / A Question About Presidential Pens / eBay - 2002-08-29


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


This is Steve Ember. On our program today:

We play music by Dolly Parton ...

Answer a question from a listener about the pens that presidents use to sign important documents ...

And tell about the world's biggest electronic auction.



Every day, about five-hundred-thousand things are sold on the Internet computer Web site called eBay. It has been called the most successful business in Internet history. Mary Tillotson tells us more.


eBay is an international electronic auction. Computer users around the world compete to buy things for sale on the eBay Web site. The person who offers the most money buys the object. You can buy and sell almost anything on eBay. This includes art, books, electronic equipment, clothing, cameras, sports equipment, jewelry, movies and music. You can even buy and sell cars, property and places to spend your holiday.

There are about eleven-million things for sale on eBay at one time. Many people buy and sell special things that they collect, like toy trains or dolls. Some of these things become very valuable over the years.

For example, a woman in Palm Bay, Florida has collected the toys called Barbie dolls since she was a little girl. She knows which ones are valuable because they are rare. Recently she bought one doll for a few dollars at someone's yard sale. She later sold it for several hundred dollars on eBay.

Some things on eBay sell for only a few dollars. Others sell for many thousands of dollars, such as old cars or rare money collections. Some Americans have started their own businesses selling things on eBay. More than one hundred thousand businesses now operate only on eBay.

The headquarters of eBay are in San Jose, California. A young man named Pierre Omidyar started eBay. He worked as a computer programmer in California. Mister Omidyar's idea was to create a perfect, international marketplace where everyone was equal. His idea began as a Web site called AuctionWeb in nineteen-ninety-five. Three years later it became a public company. It was then valued at more than two-thousand-million dollars.

eBay does not sell anything itself. Instead, it connects buyers and sellers. It collects money from the sellers for every object sold. eBay has links to Web sites in twenty other countries. Almost fifty-million people around the world buy and sell things on eBay.

Presidential Pens


Our VOA listener question this week comes from Vietnam. Vu Hoai Thu wants to know why President Bush uses a lot of pens when he signs an official document. Also, what happens to all these pens after the President signs his name on a document?

For the answers, we turn to Bill Bushong (BUSH-ong). He is a historian with the White House Historical Association. Mister Bushong says it is a tradition for presidents to use many writing instruments at official signing ceremonies. He says a president often uses twelve or more pens during a single ceremony.

Each pen serves as a memento, or something that helps someone remember an event. Most of the pens are given to people considered important to the approval of a bill or treaty, such as members of Congress. A few private citizens attending the ceremony also may receive a pen.

Mister Bushong says the White House sends one pen used by the president and a copy of the signed document to the National Archives. The National Archives is the federal agency that collects and saves official records.

The president also may decide to keep one of the pens. It may be included with other important objects in a presidential library after he leaves office.

Members of the president's family may keep a few of the pens used at official ceremonies. The pens rarely are offered to the general public. However, you might be able to buy one from someone who attended a signing ceremony. Such pens are sometimes sold in special stores. Computer users also can search for them on Internet auction Web sites, like eBay.

Another way to get a pen from the White House is through the official White House store. The White House gift shop sells a number of writing instruments. Some pens come in beautiful wooden boxes and cost twenty-five or thirty dollars. Other pens cost from four dollars to ten dollars. You can also buy twelve White House pencils for about four dollars.

Now, some final thoughts about presidential pens. For more than fifty years, pens made by the Parker company were used at White House signing ceremonies. However, the current president uses pens made by another company, Shaeffer.

Dolly Parton


One of the most popular country music artists has released a new album. Shep O'Neal tells about Dolly Parton's record, "Halos and Horns."


Dolly Parton grew up poor in the Great Smoky Mountain area of Tennessee. She listened to traditional mountain music called bluegrass. Mizz Parton's recent albums, including "Halos and Horns," have honored that kind of music.

The banjo, fiddle and mandolin are some of the most common instruments used in bluegrass music. Listen for these instruments in "Sugar Hill," a song about memories of mountain life.


Dolly Parton is as famous for writing songs as she is for singing them. She has published more than three-thousand songs. Many of her songs have become hit recordings for other artists. Last year, the National Academy of Popular Music chose Mizz Parton to be included in the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

Dolly Parton wrote two songs for "Halos and Horns" in reaction to the terrorist attacks on the United States last September. In "Raven Dove" she sings about a time when there is no war or hate.


Dolly Parton also re-recorded a famous rock and roll song for "Halos and Horns." Critics were surprised by her choice of "Stairway to Heaven" by the band Led Zeppelin. But most critics praised her version. We leave you now with Dolly Parton singing "Stairway to Heaven."



This is Steve Ember. 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 Caty Weaver, George Grow and Shelley Gollust. Our studio engineer was Dwayne Collins. And our producer was Paul Thompson.