This is Mary Tillotson.
And this is Steve Ember with the MAKING OF A NATION, a VOA Special English program about the history of the United States. Today, we begin the series of more than two-hundred programs about American history.
Each week at this time we will tell a story from the history of the United States of America. THE MAKING OF A NATION is really a series of lessons. These lessons include ancient history, modern history, exploration, revolution, politics, civil war, industrial expansion and modern technology.
Our first program in the series tells about the first people who came to the Western Hemisphere. The story will continue to show what happened as time passed. What is news today will become history tomorrow. And that history becomes a new and important part of THE MAKING OF A NATION.
THE MAKING OF A NATION answers questions about American history. How was the United States formed? Why was it necessary for loyal citizens to rebel against one nation and form a new nation with different laws? What was missing in their older form of government that would cause them to begin a rebellion?
We explain how a group of farmers, businessmen and lawyers could write a document called the Constitution of the United States. And we explain why that document is still extremely important today. The answers to those questions and the writing of the Constitution resulted in the creation of the United States of America. The Constitution of the United States has been used by more than one government as a guide to creating a modern democracy.
In other programs, we explain why it was necessary for those who formed the United States to include laws that guarantee freedom of speech and freedom of religion. We tell why they thought it was important to guarantee every citizen the right to write, print and publish material on any subject. And we explain why they felt there was a need to include a law that guaranteed a person the right to a fair and public trial if that person was charged with a crime.
The American Revolution was fought for several reasons. One of the most important was the idea that citizens of a country should have a voice in its decisions. The men who led the revolt against Britain wanted to be able to vote. They agreed that a citizen should have a voice in the government that ruled his country. British citizens in the American colonies paid taxes but had no representative in the British Parliament. This lack of representation caused a growing anger in the American colonies.
When the men who led the revolt against Britain formed a new government they made sure that all free men who owned land and paid taxes were permitted to vote. More importantly they decided that any free citizen could be a candidate for public office.
Our series of programs explains this idea. These programs describe the elections of each American president. We tell why some candidates were successful and why others failed.
We also tell about mistakes that were made when the United States was created. The greatest mistake was slavery. We tell about slavery and the pain and suffering it caused for all those involved. We tell of the great Civil War that was fought to keep the United States united and to end slavery.
We also tell how election laws were changed to permit any citizen over the age of eighteen to vote in local and national elections.
Many of our programs tell about the ideas and issues that had a great effect on the United States. But most importantly, we tell about the people who worked with these ideas and issues to make the United States a successful nation.
We tell about George Washington. He began life as a farmer. He became a military commander and the first president of the United States. He became a soldier because his country needed him. He became president because the citizens of the new country wanted him as their leader. When his time as president was over, George Washington gave up power and once again became a farmer and a private citizen.
We tell about Thomas Jefferson. He wrote the beautiful words of the Declaration of Independence. That document told the world that the people in this new country would no longer answer to a European ruler.
Some of the men who formed the United States into a nation during the seventeen-hundreds were well educated and wealthy. Abraham Lincoln was not. He was proof that in a nation of equal laws, a poor man could rise to become the president of the United States.
Abraham Lincoln became president during the eighteen-sixties when several southern states decided they no longer wanted to be part of the United States. We tell how President Lincoln dealt with the terrible Civil War that almost split the country apart.
One of our programs deals with a speech that President Lincoln gave in the little town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. A great battle had been fought there. President Lincoln had been asked to come to Gettysburg to say a few words at the dedication of a military burial place.
What he said that day became one of the most famous speeches in the English language. President Lincoln’s speech honored the young men who had died on that bloody battlefield. He also told the world why the terrible war was being fought and why it was so important.
Listen to the first sentence of his famous speech. In only a few words, President Lincoln explained the idea that was, and is still, so important to each citizen of the United States.
"Four Score and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”
You can hear all of President Lincoln’s famous words in our program about his speech at Gettysburg. We tell how he wrote the speech. And we tell about the sadness he felt because he believed his few words had been a failure. The story of the famous Gettysburg Address is only one of several programs that tell the story of Abraham Lincoln.
THE MAKING OF A NATION includes programs about many different subjects. We tell about culture. We tell about social changes. For example, we tell about a time called the Roaring Twenties. They were the years from nineteen-twenty to nineteen-twenty nine.
It was a time when young men and women began to change some of the traditions of their parents and grandparents. The Roaring Twenties were years of revolution in social values among some Americans.
Movies were new and exciting. Music was changing. And newspapers were printing as many as five editions a day to present the latest news. By the end of the Roaring Twenties, radios could be found in most American homes. And a young pilot named Charles Lindbergh flew a small plane from the United States to an airport near Paris, France. He became a world hero for flying alone across the Atlantic Ocean.
The Roaring Twenties ended with a crash. That crash was the beginning of the worst economic crisis in American history. The economic crisis was called the Great Depression. The MAKING OF A NATION explains what caused this depression. We tell how millions of Americans were without work. We tell the sad story of people who lost their jobs, their homes and their hope for the future. We tell how this great economic failure affected Americans and the rest of the world.
We also tell about the administration of President Franklin Roosevelt. He was elected to office with a promise that he would bring the United States out of the Great Depression. Franklin Roosevelt served longer than any other president in American history.
We tell about the elections and administrations of the presidents elected since that time. We tell about World War One, World War Two and other wars. And we tell about the social, cultural and historic events that were important to the growth of the United States as a nation.
This VOA Special English program THE MAKING OF A NATION was written and produced by Paul Thompson. This is Mary Tillotson.
And this is Steve Ember.The first of more than two-hundred programs in this series begins next week at this time. We tell about the first humans to come to the Western Hemisphere. Join us for this special story on THE MAKING OF A NATION.