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AMERICAN MOSAIC - Arbor Day / The F.B.I. / Eric Clapton Plays Robert Johnson - 2004-04-30

Broadcast: April 30, 2004


Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC, in VOA Special English.


This is Doug Johnson.

On our show this week ... some old-time blues music, and a question about the F.B.I.

But first, we investigate the roots of a national observance.

Arbor Day


April thirtieth is Arbor Day in the United States. It is not an official holiday. Children still have to go to school. Instead, it is a day for planting trees. Shep O’Neal has our report.


"Arbor" comes from the Latin word for tree. The idea for Arbor Day came from the American Midwest more than one-hundred-thirty-years ago. At that time, Nebraska was not yet a state. It was a territory. The land was wide and open, and flat mostly. There were almost no trees.

A reporter named Sterling Morton moved to Nebraska. He and his wife loved nature. They planted trees and flowers around their new home. Mister Morton became the editor of the first newspaper in Nebraska.

He wrote about agriculture and the importance of trees. Nebraska needed trees to prevent the wind from blowing away the soil. Trees also protect against the hot summer sun.

Sterling Morton became an official of the Nebraska Territory. He proposed a tree-planting holiday. Local agriculture officials organized the first “Arbor Day” on April tenth, eighteen-seventy-two. There were prizes for planting the most trees.

Experts say more than one-million trees were planted in Nebraska on that first Arbor Day. The idea for a day for planting trees began to spread to other areas of the country. By eighteen-seventy-four, every state celebrated Arbor Day.

Today, most states celebrate Arbor Day on the last Friday in April. But some celebrate at other times, when the weather in their area is better for planting trees. For example, the southern states of Florida and Louisiana celebrate Arbor Day on the third Friday in January. Arbor Day in Oregon is April fourth. In Colorado, it is April sixteenth.

The National Arbor Day Foundation is a private group that helps people plant trees and plan Arbor Day activities. And I bet you can guess where the National Arbor Day Foundation has its headquarters. That’s right, Nebraska.

The F.B.I.


Our VOA listener question this week comes by e-mail. A student somewhere in China wants to know about the F.B.I.

The F.B.I. is the Federal Bureau of Investigation. It is the main investigating agency of the Department of Justice in the United States. The F.B.I. enforces more than two-hundred federal laws. But it says its two most important jobs now are to prevent terrorism and spying.

The F.B.I. assists other law enforcement agencies in the United States and foreign countries. It has the world’s largest collection of fingerprints and is also known for its crime laboratories.

The F.B.I. employs about twenty-seven-thousand people. They work in fifty-six offices in the United States and more than forty offices in other countries.

More than eleven-thousand men and women serve as special agents. They investigate crimes like bank robberies, but also crimes involving computers, the environment and terrorism.

The F.B.I. has been criticized for its part in the failure to stop the hijackings on September eleventh, two-thousand-one. F.B.I. Director Robert Mueller recently went before the national commission investigating the attacks in New York and Washington.

Mister Mueller said the F.B.I. and other agencies have made many changes since then. He said new laws have made it easier to share information about possible terrorist threats. He said these efforts have to led to al-Qaida supporters and the seizure of millions of dollars in terrorist financing.

Eric Clapton Plays Robert Johnson



Singer and guitarist Eric Clapton has a new album. It honors one of the early American musicians who helped invent the kind of music known as the blues. Faith Lapidus has more.


Over the years, Eric Clapton has sold millions of records on his own and with bands like Cream and the Yardbirds. The British-born musician says he has been successful because of the influence of one man, Robert Johnson. Johnson died a mysterious death in nineteen-thirty-eight. He was only twenty-six years old.

The new album is called "Me and Mister Johnson." It contains fourteen Robert Johnson songs. Eric Clapton does not play them the way Johnson did. But he is true to the heart and soul of the blues that Robert Johnson wrote and played.

Here Eric Clapton plays a Robert Johnson song called “Little Queen of Spades.”


Eric Clapton is one of the few musicians today who continues the blues tradition begun by Robert Johnson. We leave you with another Robert Johnson song from "Me and Mister Johnson." This one is called “Kind Hearted Woman Blues.”



This is Doug Johnson.

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

This program was written by Nancy Steinbach and Paul Thompson, who was also our producer. Our engineer was Tom Verba.