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AMERICAN MOSAIC - Jewish Life in America / The 'Show-Me State' / Music by New Edition - 2004-12-03

Broadcast: December 3, 2004


DOUG JOHNSON: Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC, in VOA Special English.

This is Doug Johnson. On our show this week:

Music by New Edition …

A question from China about why Missouri is the "Show-Me State" …

And, a report on three hundred fifty years of Jewish life in America.

Jewish Life in America

Next week, Jews all over the world will begin celebrating the eight- day holiday of Hanukkah. At the same time, The Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., is honoring Jewish history in the United States. It is showing more than two hundred objects from Jewish life in America. Barbara Klein has more.

(MUSIC: Hanukkah prayer sung in Hebrew))

BARBARA KLEIN: The exhibit is called “From Haven to Home: Three Hundred Fifty Years of Jewish Life in America.” Photographs, paintings, newspaper stories, films and other objects tell the Jewish story. Many Jews came to the United States in search of security.

Twenty-three people who fled religious oppression in Brazil were the first Jews to arrive. They settled in what would later become New York City in sixteen fifty-four. The collection tells the promise of America for those from other countries who came here.

One example is a letter written by America’s first president, George Washington, in seventeen ninety. President Washington wrote the letter to the Newport Hebrew Congregation in Rhode Island. His letter says Jewish people should continue to enjoy the good will of others in the United States.

A painting from later in history shows Uriah Philipps Levy, who fought in the War of Eighteen Twelve. He also helped keep the home of President Thomas Jefferson as a national monument.

The Library of Congress collection also shows a handwritten poem by Emma Lazarus. It contains the lines, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” She wrote the poem in eighteen eighty-three to help raise money for the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor. Her poem is written on the famous statue.

The collection represents more modern times as well. It recognizes Jewish entertainers, writers, politicians and athletes.

The collection also recalls difficult times for Jews. A newspaper cartoon documents such a time in the American South during the nineteen-fifties. A Library of Congress guide says some southerners became hostile because many Jews supported human rights for black people.

The collection ends with a short film of the Jewish music writer, Irving Berlin, who was born in Russia. He is singing one of his most famous songs, “God Bless America.” Berlin always said that he wrote the song to thank America for all it did to help him succeed.

'Show-Me State'

DOUG JOHNSON: Our listener question this week comes from Hubei, China. A listener named Hall writes: "It's said that people from the state of Missouri tend to be suspicious. ... Why?"

Well, we cannot speak for all the people from Missouri. But it is true that their Midwestern state is known as the “Show-Me State.”

When people say “show me,” what they mean is, “show me the proof.” In other words, they are not easily tricked. The same is true when people say “I’m from Missouri” even when they are not.

Being a little suspicious ourselves, we did some searching on the Web. We found out from the state government that Missouri is not officially called the “Show-Me State.” But that term does appear on automobile license plates and is commonly used around Missouri.

So where did it come from? State officials note that there are a number of stories to explain it. The most widely known involves a congressman from Missouri named Willard Duncan Vandiver.

In eighteen ninety-nine, the congressman gave a speech in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It was in connection with serving on the House Committee on Naval Affairs. He declared that he came from a state that raises corn and cotton “and Democrats.” He said fancy language “neither convinces nor satisfies me. I am from Missouri. You have got to show me.”

Missouri officials are not sure Congressman Vandiver was the first to say that. But they say his use helped make the saying popular.

Another story takes place during a strike by miners in the eighteen nineties in the western town of Leadville, Colorado. A number of lead miners from Missouri had been hired to replace the local strikers. As this version goes, the Missouri miners did not know Colorado mining methods and needed a lot of help. Supervisors began saying: “That man is from Missouri. You’ll have to show him.” It was not something nice to say.

But we have all the proof we need that “show me” is a term spoken with pride. VOA’s book editor Nancy Beardsley grew up in the “Show-Me State.” She tells us that the saying means the people of Missouri are independent and need proof before they will trust authority.

New Edition

In nineteen eighty, five teenage singers from Boston, Massachusetts, formed a group they called New Edition. Now New Edition is out with its eighth album. Gwen Outen has our story.

GWEN OUTEN: New Edition set out to become a new version of the nineteen seventies group the Jackson Five. In nineteen eighty-three, New Edition released its first album, “Candy Girl.” The members of the group were between the ages of thirteen and fifteen.

New Edition became popular with hits like “Is This the End,” “Popcorn Love” and “Candy Girl.”


In nineteen eighty-six, Bobby Brown left New Edition to sing on his own.

Rhythm-and-blues singer Johnny Gill joined the group in time for its nineteen eighty-eight album “Heart Break." That album included this hit, “Can You Stand the Rain.”


New Edition had its last album, "Home Again," in nineteen ninety-six.

The newest album from the group is called “One Love.” We leave you with New Edition and a song called “Hot 2Nite.”


DOUG JOHNSON: This is Doug Johnson. I hope you enjoyed AMERICAN MOSAIC.

Our program was written by Lawan Davis, Nancy Steinbach and Jerilyn Watson. Paul Thompson was our producer.

Send your questions about American life to Be sure to include your full name and postal address. Or write to American Mosaic, VOA Special English, Washington, D.C., two-zero-two-three-seven, USA.

Join us again next week for AMERICAN MOSAIC, VOA’s radio magazine in Special English.