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AMERICAN MOSAIC - Sports Mascots / Neil Armstrong / Music by Jen Chapin - 2004-04-01

Broadcast: April 2, 2004



Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC, in VOA Special English.


This is Doug Johnson. On our show this week: music by singer and songwriter Jen Chapin. We answer a question about a famous astronaut. And, we report about some wild creatures of the sports world...


Sports Mascots


The calendar says April, but March Madness continues in the United States. March Madness is the name for the yearly championship series in college basketball. And as the teams play, some strange looking creatures perform for the crowds. Gwen Outen explains.


A diamondback turtle larger than a man runs across the basketball court. Really, a man dressed as a turtle. He is not one of the players. He is Testudo, the official mascot of the Terrapins, the team from the University of Maryland.

A terrapin is a kind of turtle. There is a saying at the University of Maryland: “Fear the turtle.” But basketball supporters love Testudo.

Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary defines mascot as a person, animal or object used to represent a group, especially to bring good luck. The word dates back centuries to masca, Latin for witch.

Many schools have mascots. For example, teams at Pennsylvania State University are called the Nittany Lions. Crowds try to make the sound of a mountain lion roar when the Nittany Lion mascot appears.

People get very attached to their mascots. Consider the case of Western Kentucky University. The school in Bowling Green, Kentucky, is taking international legal action to protect its mascot. Its mascot is a red, roundish creature called Big Red. It looks very much like a red, roundish creature called Gabibbo. Gabibbo appears on a television comedy in Italy. The university says the Italian media company that owns the show stole the idea.

That company, Mediaset, denies any wrongdoing. Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi owns Mediaset. Western Kentucky wants two-hundred-fifty-million dollars for the use of Gabibbo -- or Big Red as the school sees it.

Neil Armstrong


Our listener question this week comes from Vietnam. Nguyen Trong Tuyen wants to know about the American astronaut Neil Armstrong and the famous words he spoke in nineteen-sixty-nine.

Neil Alden Armstrong was born in nineteen-thirty in Wapakoneta, Ohio. He became interested in flying when he was a young boy. He had his first airplane ride when he was six years old although he told a reporter he had no memory of it. Ten years later, Neil had learned to fly a plane and got his first pilot’s license. After high school, Neil joined the Navy and was accepted in a special program that paid for his college education. He went to Purdue University in Indiana. It had a strong flight engineering program. However, the start of the Korean War delayed his studies there. He fought in Korea and returned to complete his studies at Purdue after the war ended in nineteen-fifty-two.

Neil Armstrong was working as a test pilot when the American space agency chose him to become an astronaut. His first trip to space was with the Gemini program in nineteen-sixty-six. Three years later he was named commander of the Apollo Eleven flight. This was the first attempt to land humans on the moon. Apollo Eleven left Earth on July sixteenth, nineteen-sixty-nine.

A few days later, hundreds of millions of people around the world watched or listened to the Apollo Eleven landing on the moon. On July twentieth, the door of the lunar module Eagle opened. There was Neil Armstrong with astronaut Buzz Aldrin behind him. Neil Armstrong stepped on to the moon. Here is what he said:


Neil Armstrong later served as a NASA official, a college professor, a writer and speaker. He is considered an American hero of flight. In two-thousand-one, Neil Armstrong spoke with historians as part of NASA’s Johnson Space Center Oral History Project. One of the reporters asked Mister Armstrong if he would like to return to space. He answered, with a laugh, that he would like to lead a mission to Mars. Neil Armstrong will be seventy-four in August.

Jen Chapin


Jen Chapin is a singer and songwriter from New York City. She released her first album on a national record label in February. Shep O’Neal tells about the musician and plays some of the songs from her album, called “Linger.”


Jazz Times magazine has called Jen Chapin an excellent story teller. Her songs discuss many different issues. They include political activism, the music business, and the busy but meaningless lives some people lead. But, of course, a number of songs also talk about love, like this one called “Me Be Me.”


Jen Chapin is a political and social activist as well as a musician. In this way she follows in the footsteps of her late father, singer and songwriter Harry Chapin. Jen Chapin is head of the board of directors of the non-profit group her father helped establish in the nineteen-seventies. World Hunger Year works to end hunger mainly through community-based solutions.

One of Jen Chapin’s songs seems like an appeal for political and social activism. Here is “Passive People.”


Jen Chapin says she loves New York City and feels linked to its people. But she also says she sometimes desires a quieter life. We leave you now with the first song on “Linger.” It is called “Little Hours.”



This is Doug Johnson.

Our program was written by Caty Weaver. Paul Thompson was our producer. And our recording engineer was Audreus Regis.

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