Accessibility links

Breaking News

AMERICAN MOSAIC - September 26, 2003: Remembering Johnny Cash / Poet laureate Louise Gluck / Listener Asks Why Americans Never Elected a Woman President. - 2003-09-26



Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC -- a VOA Special English program about music and American life. And we answer your questions.


This is Doug Johnson. This week – we answer a listener who wants to know why a woman has never been elected president. And we remember the music of Johnny Cash. But first – meet America’s new poet laureate.

New Poet Laureate


Next month America will get a new national poet. The next poet laureate is Louise Elisabeth Gluck (pronounced glick). She has won the Pulitzer Prize and many other honors. Bob Doughty tells more.


Louise Gluck is the twelfth person to be named Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry. Mizz Gluck is the third woman to serve in that position. It was created in nineteen-eighty-six. Before that the position had a different name.

James Billington is the Librarian of Congress. He announced the appointment of Louise Gluck. Mister Billington says she will bring a strong, deep poetic voice to her work as poet laureate. The outgoing poet laureate is Billy Collins. Mister Collins served two terms. Each term is one year.

Louise Gluck will receive thirty-five-thousand-dollars as poet laureate. She is to organize a poetry reading by others. She will also take part in programs next February and May. Mizz Gluck says she wants to recognize excellent works by young poets. She was also appointed this year to judge the Yale Series of Younger Poets.

Louise Gluck started to write poetry as a young child. She was born in nineteen-forty-three in New York. There she attended Sarah Lawrence College and Columbia University. But she did not stay very long in either school. For the past twenty years she has taught at Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts. She teaches English, poetry writing and modern poetry. She will continue to teach during her term as poet laureate.

Mizz Gluck has written nine books of poetry. They include “The Seven Ages,” “Vita Nova” and “Ararat.” Her poem “The Wild Iris” won the Pulitzer Prize in nineteen-ninety-three. Here are the opening lines of “The Wild Iris” by Louise Gluck, read by Sarah Long.


“At the end of my suffering

There was a door.

Hear me out: that which you call death

I remember.

Overhead, noises, branches of the pine shifting.

Then nothing. The weak sun

Flickered over the dry surface.

It is terrible to survive

As consciousness

Buried in the dark earth.”

Female President


Our VOA listener question this week is from Ethiopia. Theodros Solomon in Arsi asks why the United States has never had a female president.

The Constitution says anyone born in America can become president. Several women have tried. In eighteen-seventy-two and eighteen-ninety-two, Victoria Woodhull was a candidate of the Equal Rights Party. Over the years other women presidential candidates have included, among the most recent, Leonora Fulani of the American New Alliance Party. But these women were all nominated by small parties and really had no chance to win.

Just this week, Carol Moseley Braun officially launched her campaign for the Democratic Party nomination for president in next year's election. In nineteen-ninety-two she made history as the first black woman elected to the Senate. Now she is the only woman among ten Democratic candidates.

Historians say a woman did act as president for a short time, in nineteen-nineteen. Edith Galt Wilson was the wife of President Woodrow Wilson. He was very sick for about six months. During that time, Missus Wilson controlled who saw her husband and when. She read all his documents and decided which would go to the president to consider. She later wrote that her husband’s doctor thought this would be a way to help him regain his health. President Wilson left office when his term ended in nineteen-twenty-one.

Today, experts say it is not a question if Americans will elect a woman president, but when. Some expect the Democratic Party to nominate New York Senator Hillary Clinton within the next ten years. And North Carolina Senator Elizabeth Dole is named as a possible presidential candidate of the Republican Party.

Johnny Cash

(MUSIC – "Cry, Cry, Cry")


The music of Johnny Cash lives on in the more than fifty-million records he sold during his lifetime. Johnny Cash died earlier this month at the age of seventy-one. He had suffered for years from the effects of diabetes. Faith Lapidus remembers his life and his music.


Johnny Cash was born in Arkansas, in the South, in nineteen-thirty-two. His father was a cotton farmer. As a boy, Johnny Cash helped on the farm. He also sang on local radio. After high school he joined the Air Force. He was sent to Germany, where he began to write songs, including one of his greatest hits, “Folsom Prison Blues.”


Johnny Cash signed with a record company after he left the Air Force. Here is "I Walk the Line," his nineteen-fifty-six release which sold two-million copies.


Johnny Cash often sang about his inner struggles. His music could be as dark as the clothes that earned him the name "the man in black." For years he had problems with alcohol and drugs. A lot of people thought he had been in prison. But he only spent one night in jail.

In all, Johnny Cash recorded more then one-thousand-five-hundred songs -- and not just country music. He also sang religious songs, rock-and-roll and blues. He won eleven Grammy awards. And he is honored in both the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Elvis Presley is the only other singer with that honor.

Johnny Cash continued to record until the very end of his life. Last month, he received an MTV Music Award for his performance in a current video. In it, he sings a song by the rock group Nine Inch Nails. We leave you now with Johnny Cash singing “Hurt.”



This is Doug Johnson.

Our program was written by Nancy Steinbach and Jerilyn Watson. Our producer was Caty Weaver.

I hope you enjoyed our program. Join us again next week for AMERICAN MOSAIC -- VOA’s radio magazine in Special English.