Tuesday, February 15, 2011

"The Wright Brothers" from VOA

Welcome to PEOPLE IN AMERICA from VOA Special English. Today, Sarah Long and Rich Kleinfeldt tell the story of Wilbur and Orville Wright. The Wright brothers made a small engine-powered flying machine and proved that it was possible for humans to really fly.


Wilbur Wright was born in eighteen sixty-seven near Melville, Indiana. His brother Orville was born four years later in Dayton, Ohio. Throughout their lives, they were best friends. As Wilbur once said: "From the time we were little children, Orville and I lived together, played together, worked together and thought together."

Wilbur and Orville's father was a bishop, an official of the United Brethren Church. He traveled a lot on church business. Their mother was unusual for a woman of the nineteenth century. She had completed college. She was especially good at mathematics and science. And she was good at using tools to fix things or make things.

One winter day when the Wright brothers were young, all their friends were outside sliding down a hill on wooden sleds. The Wright brothers were sad, because they did not have a sled. So, Mrs. Wright said she would make one for them. She drew a picture of a sled. It did not look like other sleds. It was lower to the ground and not as wide. She told the boys it would be faster, because there would be less resistance from the wind when they rode on it. Mrs. Wright was correct. When the sled was finished, it was the fastest one around. Wilbur and Orville felt like they were flying.

The sled project taught the Wright brothers two important rules. They learned they could increase speed by reducing wind resistance. And they learned the importance of drawing a design. Mrs. Wright said: "If you draw it correctly on paper, it will be right when you build it."


When Wilbur was eleven years old and Orville seven, Bishop Wright brought home a gift for them. It was a small flying machine that flew like helicopters of today. It was made of paper, bamboo and cork.

The motor was a rubber band that had to be turned many times until it was tight. When the person holding the toy helicopter let go, it rose straight up. It stayed in the air for a few seconds. Then it floated down to the floor.

Wilbur and Orville played and played with their new toy. Finally, the paper tore and the rubber band broke. They made another one. But it was too heavy to fly. Their first flying machine failed.

Their attempts to make the toy gave them a new idea. They would make kites to fly and sell to their friends. They made many designs and tested them. Finally, they had the right design. The kites flew as though they had wings.

The Wright brothers continued to experiment with mechanical things. Orville started a printing business when he was in high school. He used a small printing machine to publish a newspaper. He sold copies of the newspaper to the other children in school, but he did not earn much money from the project.

Wilbur offered some advice to his younger brother. Make the printing press bigger and publish a bigger newspaper, he said. So, together, they designed and built one. The machine looked strange. Yet it worked perfectly. Soon, Orville and Wilbur were publishing a weekly newspaper.

They also printed materials for local businessmen. They were finally earning money. Wilbur was twenty-five years old and Orville twenty-one when they began to sell and repair bicycles. Then they began to make them. But the Wright brothers never stopped thinking about flying machines.


In eighteen ninety-nine, Wilbur decided to learn about all the different kinds of flying machines that had been designed and tested through the years. Wilbur wrote to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington. He asked for all the information it had on flying.

The Wright brothers read everything they could about people who sailed through the air under huge balloons. They also read about people who tried to fly on gliders -- planes with wings, but no motors.

Then the Wright brothers began to design their own flying machine. They used the ideas they had developed from their earlier experiments with the toy helicopter, kites, printing machine and bicycles.

Soon, they needed a place to test their ideas about flight. They wrote to the Weather Bureau in Washington to find the place with the best wind conditions. The best place seemed to be a thin piece of sandy land in North Carolina along the coast of the Atlantic Ocean. It was called Kill Devil Hill, near the town of Kitty Hawk. It had the right wind and open space. Best of all, it was private.

In nineteen hundred, the Wright brothers tested a glider that could carry a person. But neither the first or second glider they built had the lifting power needed for real flight. Wilbur and Orville decided that what they had read about air pressure on curved surfaces was wrong. So they built a wind tunnel two meters long in their bicycle store in Dayton, Ohio. They tested more than two hundred designs of wings. These tests gave them the correct information about air pressure on curved surfaces. Now it was possible for them to design a machine that could fly.

The Wright brothers built a third glider. They took it to Kitty Hawk in the summer of nineteen-oh-two. They made almost one thousand flights with the glider. Some covered more than one hundred eighty meters. This glider proved that they had solved most of the problems of balance in flight. By the autumn of nineteen-oh-three, Wilbur and Orville had designed and built an airplane powered by a gasoline engine. The plane had wings twelve meters across. It weighed about three hundred forty kilograms, including the pilot.

The Wright brothers returned to Kitty Hawk. On December seventeen, nineteen-oh-three, they made the world's first flight in a machine that was heavier than air and powered by an engine. Orville flew the plane thirty-seven meters. He was in the air for twelve seconds. The two brothers made three more flights that day. The longest was made by Wilbur. He flew two hundred sixty meters in fifty-nine seconds. Four other men watched the Wright brothers' first flights. One of the men took pictures. Few newspapers, however, noted the event.

Wilbur and Orville returned home to Ohio. They built more powerful engines and flew better airplanes. But their success was almost unknown. Most people still did not believe flying was possible. It was almost five years before the Wright brothers became famous. In nineteen-oh-eight, Wilbur went to France. He gave demonstration flights at heights of ninety meters. A French company agreed to begin making the Wright brothers' flying machine.

Orville made successful flights in the United States at the time Wilbur was in France. One lasted an hour. Orville also made fifty-seven complete circles over a field at Fort Myer, Virginia. The United States War Department agreed to buy a Wright brothers' plane. Wilbur and Orville suddenly became world heroes. Newspapers wrote long stories about them. Crowds followed them. But they were not seeking fame. They returned to Dayton where they continued to improve their airplanes. They taught many others how to fly.

Wilbur Wright died of typhoid fever in nineteen twelve. Orville Wright continued designing and inventing until he died many years later, in nineteen forty-eight.

Today, the Wright brothers' first airplane is in the Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. Visitors to the museum look at the Wright brothers' small plane with its cloth wings, wooden controls and tiny engine. Then they see space vehicles and a rock collected from the moon. This is striking evidence of the changes in the world since Wilbur and Orville Wright began the modern age of flight, one hundred years ago.


This program was written by Marilyn Rice Christiano and produced by Paul Thompson. Your announcers were Sarah Long and Rich Kleinfeldt. I'm Faith Lapidus. Join us again next week for PEOPLE IN AMERICA from VOA Special English.


1. The Wright Brothers invented the airplane _________________ .
a. less than 100 years ago
b. more than 100 years ago
c. about two hundred years ago
d. In the Nineteenth Century

2. The Wright Brothers first learned about wind resistance from a ________________ .
a. toy helicopter
b. well designed sled
c. new type of bicycle
d. heavier than air glider

3. Wilbur and Orville Wright had very _________________ .
a. similar interests
b. different ideas
c. different lifestyles
d. opposite viewpoints

4. As boys, Wilbur and Orville were encouraged by ______________ .
a. only their mother
b. only their father
c. both of their parents
d. only an aunt and uncle

5. They probably didn't learn too much about flight from their experiences with _______________ .
a. a toy helicopter
b. kites
c. a printing machine
d. typhoid fever

6. They decided that their information about air pressure on curved surfaces was wrong. So, they devised a way to test wings. They used _________________ .
a. a wind tunnel
b. long, level field
c. several rubber bands
d. several drawings

7. The first heavier than air flight accomplished by the Wright Brothers lasted for _______________ .
a. one hour
b. thirty-seven minutes
c. twelve seconds
d. twenty four hours

8. Their mother taught the Wright Brothers the importance of ________________ .
a. low wind resistance
b. starting with a good drawing
c. dating young women at an early age
d. finding financial backing

9. Another name for this article could be _________________ .
a. "Two Brothers Invent the Airplane"
b. "Traveling by Helicopter and Glider"
c. "The History of Flight"
d. "The Boys Who Imitated the Birds"

10. This story is mainly about how ______________________ .
a. to prevent gliders from crashing
b. the Wright Brothers invented the airplane
c. to make money publishing newspapers
d. to avoid common aviation errors

Everybody, get ready with your carry on luggage to board The Wright Brothers first airplane:

The Wright Brothers: A documentary from Youtube:

Monday, February 7, 2011

"Abraham Lincoln Portrait" from VOA.

SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: Welcome to THIS IS AMERICA in VOA Special English. I'm Shirley Griffith. This week on our program, Rich Kleinfeldt and I tell the story of President Abraham Lincoln. His birthday is February twelfth.


RICH KLEINFELDT: Abraham Lincoln was the sixteenth American president. He is considered one of the greatest leaders of all time. Abraham Lincoln was born in Kentucky in eighteen nine. He grew up in Illinois. His family was poor and had no education.

Abraham Lincoln taught himself what he needed to know. He became a lawyer. He served in the Illinois state legislature and in the United States Congress. In eighteen sixty, he was elected to the country's highest office.

SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: President Lincoln led the United States during the Civil War between the northern and southern states. This was the most serious crisis in American history.

President Lincoln helped end slavery in the nation. And he helped keep the American union from splitting apart during the war. President Lincoln believed that he proved to the world that democracy can be a lasting form of government.

RICH KLEINFELDT: In eighteen sixty-three, President Lincoln gave what became his most famous speech. Union armies of the North had won two great victories that year. They defeated the Confederate armies of the South at Vicksburg, Mississippi and at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

Ceremonies were held to honor the dead soldiers at a burial place on the Gettysburg battlefield.

President Lincoln spoke at Gettysburg for only about two minutes. But his speech has never been forgotten. Historians say the speech defined Americans as a people who believed in freedom, democracy and equality.

Abraham Lincoln wrote some of the most memorable words in American history. He was murdered a few days after the Civil War ended in eighteen sixty-five. Yet his words live on.

SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: Here is Christopher Cruise reading the Gettysburg Address:

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.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived, and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of it, as a final resting place for those who died here, that the nation might live. This we may, in all propriety do. But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate – we can not consecrate – we can not hallow, this ground – The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have hallowed it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here; while it can never forget what they did here.

It is rather for us, the living, we here be dedicated to the great task remaining before us – that, from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here, gave the last full measure of devotion – that we here highly resolve these dead shall not have died in vain; that the nation, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people by the people for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: In nineteen forty-two, orchestra conductor Andre Kostelanitz asked composer Aaron Copland to write a piece of music about Abraham Lincoln. Copland was one of the best modern American composers. He wrote many kinds of music. His music told stories about the United States.

Aaron Copland wrote "Lincoln Portrait" to honor the president. Copland's music included parts of American folk songs and songs popular during the Civil War. Here is the Seattle Symphony playing part of "Lincoln Portrait."


RICH KLEINFELDT: Aaron Copland added words from President Lincoln's speeches and letters to his "Lincoln Portrait." It has been performed many times in the United States. Many famous people have read the words.

To celebrate Presidents Day, here is actor James Earl Jones reading part of Aaron Copland's "Lincoln Portrait."


JAMES EARL JONES: “Fellow citizens, we cannot escape history.” That is what he said. That is what Abraham Lincoln said: “Fellow citizens, we cannot escape history. We of this Congress and this administration will be remembered in spite of ourselves. No personal significance or insignificance can spare one or another of us. The fiery trial through which we pass will light us down in honor or dishonor, to the latest generation. We – even we here – hold the power and bear the responsibility … “

Lincoln was a quiet man. Abe Lincoln was a quiet and melancholy man. But, when he spoke of Democracy, this is what he said:

He said: “As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master. This expresses my idea of Democracy. Whatever differs from this, to the extent of the difference, is no democracy.”

Abraham Lincoln, sixteenth President of these United States, is everlasting in the memory of his countrymen, for on the battleground at Gettysburg this is what he said:

He said: “That from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion: that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain; and that this nation under God, shall have a new birth of freedom; and that government of the people, by the people, and for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: This program was written by Shelley Gollust. It was produced by Lawan Davis. Our engineer was Al Alevy. I’m Shirley Griffith.


RICH KLEINFELDT: And I'm Rich Kleinfeldt. Join us again next week for another report about life in the United States on the VOA Special English program THIS IS AMERICA.


1. Abraham Lincoln was born in the _________________ Century.
a. Twentieth
b. early Nineteenth
c. late Nineteenth
d. Eighteenth

2. Abraham Lincoln's parents were very ______________ .
a. educated
b. rich
c. poor
d. happy

3. Another name for the Civil War was _________________ .
a. "The War Between the States"
b. "The American Revolution"
c. "The War of 1812"
d. "The Mexican-American War"

4. The best meaning of the verb "to hallow" is _____________________ .
a. to reject
b. to bury
c. to plant crops
d. to sanctify

5. The purpose of the Gettysburg Address was to _____________ .
a. celebrate a victory
b. honor dead soldiers
c. campaign for president
d. declare the end of slavery

6. Lincoln strongly felt that in a democracy, slavery ______________ .
a. was economically necessary
b. had no place
c. should be confined to the south.
d. shouldn't be abolished

7. Lincoln felt that the Civil War was a test of whether or not a democracy could ______________ .
a. survive
b. be for the people
c. create more jobs
d. free black people

8. Aaron Copland wrote "________________ " to honor the 16th American president.
a. The End of Slavery
b. The Civil War
c. The Abolition Movement
d. Lincoln Portrait

9. "These dead shall not have died in vain" means __________________________.
a. they shall not have died for nothing
b. they shall not receive any recognition
c. they shall not have died painfully
d. their death will not be remembered

10. "Four score and seven years" means _____________________ .
a. 47 years
b. 87 years
c. 407 years
d. 11 years

11. Another name for this article could be __________________ .
a. "The Meaning of the Gettysburg Address"
b. "The Personality of Abraham Lincoln"
c. "Honoring Abraham Lincoln"
d. "The War Between the States"

12.This article is mainly about ___________________ .
a. Abe Lincoln's place in American history
b. the assassination of Abraham Lincoln
c. Abraham Lincoln's victories during the Civil War
d. the consecration of a battlefield in Pennsylvania

For more about Aaron Copland, read and listen to "Aaron Copland: His Music Taught America About Itself."

The following is a Youtube version of "Lincoln Portrait" by Aaron Copland.