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Archive for January, 2009

Thursday - January 29, 2009

Woman Gives Birth to Octuplets

_924475_quint150.jpgIt’s unusual enough when a woman gives birth to twins (two babies) or triplets (three babies).  This week, a woman living near Los Angeles gave birth to octuplets–that’s 8 babies!

The hospital has not released (told the public) the name of the mother or given any medical information about how the babies were conceived (made).  However, doctors say that the chances of a woman having octuplets naturally is infinitesimal (very, very small) and it is very likely that she used fertility treatments (using medical procedures and/or drugs to become pregnant).  This, doctors say, calls into question (makes one wonder) whether her doctors used the treatments properly and did so in a way to safeguard (keep safe) the health of the mother–and of course, the babies.

All eight babies are doing well.  Two had to be placed on respirators (machines to help a person breathe), but they are now able to breathe on their own. How many babies it’s safe to have at one time is a medical question, but how many you want to have is a personal question.

So, how many babies would you want to have (not necessarily all at one time)?  If you already have children, do/did you want more?  For you, how many is too many? (As longtime listeners know, Jeff may have a very strong opinion about this last question!)

By the way, here are the terms we use for multiple births:

2 = twins
3 = triplets
4 = quadruplets
5 = quintuplets
6 = sextuplets
7 = septuplets
8 = octuplets
9 = nonuplets
10 = decaplets

And if you have more than 10 babies at one time, you’ll have a lot more to worry about than what to call them!

~ Lucy
_____

Update 1/30/09

I read this morning that the mother of the woman who gave birth spoke to the press (newspapers and other media) and told them this:  The mother is in her 30′s, is a single mom (is not married), has six other children, and she didn’t intend to have eight other children.  When she was pregnant and the doctors told her that she was going to have seven babies (the doctors expected seven, and was surprised by the eighth), she was given the option to end some of the pregnancies.  She decided not to do that. It must have been very difficult news to get and a very difficult decision to make, and I wish the best for her, her family, and all of her children.

Thursday - January 22, 2009

President Obama’s Inauguration Speech Explained

Barack Obama became the 44th President of the United States on Tuesday.  All presidents deliver (give, say) a speech after they are sworn in (take an official oath or promise).  These speeches are often difficult to understand for non-native speakers, since they usually contain some poetic language and difficult vocabulary.  Below is the entire text of President Obama’s inauguration speech, with difficult words explained in parentheses.  You can watch the actual speech on YouTube here.  I have given the entire speech without explanations at the bottom of the page.

~Jeff

——-

President OBAMA: My fellow (those who belong to the same group as I do; Americans) citizens:

I stand here today humbled (feeling unworthy, honored) by the task before us (the job we have to do), grateful (thankful) for the trust you have bestowed (given me), mindful (remembering, conscious of) of the sacrifices borne by (suffered by) our ancestors (those who came before us). I thank President Bush for his service to our nation, as well as the generosity (giving much of something to someone) and cooperation he has shown throughout this transition (the time of change from one president to another).

Forty-four Americans have now taken the presidential oath. The words have been spoken during rising tides of prosperity (times of economic growth and expansion) and the still waters (calm times) of peace. Yet, every so often the oath is taken amidst (during the time of) gathering clouds and raging storms (bad times when there are many crises and problems that are about to happen).  At these moments, America has carried on (continued, survived) not simply because of the skill or vision of those in high office (those who hold important political positions, such as the president), but because we the people have remained faithful to the ideals of our forebears (those who came before us, ancestors), and true to (loyal to, respecting) our founding documents (the Constitution and other legal acts that were part of the establishment or creation of the United States).

So it has been. So it must be with this generation of Americans.

That we are in the midst (in the middle of) of crisis is now well understood. Our nation is at war, against a far-reaching (large, present in many different places) network (organized groups) of violence and hatred. Our economy is badly weakened (in poor condition, in trouble), a consequence (result) of greed (wanting too much money) and irresponsibility on the part of some, but also our collective failure (shared mistake, something we all are responsible for) to make hard (difficult) choices and prepare the nation for a new age. Homes have been lost (when your home is taken from you by the bank for failure to pay your loan); jobs shed (lost); businesses shuttered (closed). Our health care is too costly; our schools fail too many; and each day brings further evidence that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries (enemies) and threaten our planet.

These are the indicators of crisis, subject to (according to, depending on) data and statistics. Less measurable (able to be counted) but no less profound (serious, important) is a sapping (lowering, lessening) of confidence across our land (in different parts of the country) — a nagging fear (fear that bothers you over a long period of time, suspicion that something is wrong) that America’s decline is inevitable (cannot be avoided), and that the next generation must lower its sights (be less optimistic, willing to have less).

Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many. They will not be met (solved, taken care of) easily or in a short span (amount) of time. But know this, America — they will be met.

On this day, we gather (meet, come together) because we have chosen hope over (instead of) fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord (disagreement).

On this day, we come to proclaim (announce, tell everyone) an end to the petty (small, unimportant) grievances (complaints) and false promises, the recriminations (response to someone blaming you or saying that you are wrong), and worn out (no longer useful, tired) dogmas (ideologies, fixed ideas that cannot be changed), that for far too long have strangled (caused problems for, stopped the progress of) our politics.

We remain a young nation, but in the words of Scripture (sacred or important texts of a religion – here, the Christian sacred books; the Bible), the time has come to set aside (to put to one side, to end) childish (things for children, not appropriate for adults) things. The time has come to reaffirm (to renew, to remember again) our enduring (long-lasting) spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward (to continue into the future) that precious (important) gift, that noble (great, worthy) idea, passed on (given to) from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free and all deserve a chance to pursue (to try to get) their full measure (complete amount) of happiness.

In reaffirming the greatness of our nation, we understand that greatness is never a given (something you can count on or assume will be there).  It must be earned (worked for).  Our journey has never been one of shortcuts (faster route or road to somewhere) or settling for less (agree to take less of what you want or lower quality). It has not been the path (road) for the faint-hearted (weak) — for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame.  Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things — some celebrated but more often men and women obscure (unknown to others) in their labor, who have carried us up the long, rugged (uneven) path towards prosperity and freedom.

For us, they packed up (got ready to move) their few worldly possessions and traveled across oceans in search of a new life.

For us, they toiled (worked hard) in sweatshops (factories with poor working conditions) and settled the West (the western half of the United States); endured (put up with, survived) the lash of the whip (a whip is a long, thin piece of leather or material used to beat animals or humans, including slaves; the lash is the part of the whip that hits the person) and plowed (made holes to plant seeds in the ground) the hard earth.

For us, they fought and died, in places like Concord and Gettysburg; Normandy and Khe Sanh (famous war battles in U.S. history).

Time and again these men and women struggled and sacrificed and worked till their hands were raw (rough, worn) so that we might live a better life. They saw America as bigger than the sum (result of adding things up) of our individual ambitions; greater than all the differences of birth or wealth or faction (dissenting group that you belong to; political conflict and disagreement).

This is the journey we continue today. We remain the most prosperous, powerful nation on Earth. Our workers are no less productive than when this crisis began. Our minds are no less inventive (creative), our goods and services no less needed than they were last week or last month or last year. Our capacity remains undiminished (not less or not weaker). But our time of standing pat (doing nothing), of protecting narrow interests (concerns of only a small group) and putting off (delaying) unpleasant decisions — that time has surely passed (has ended).  Starting today, we must pick ourselves up (get up off the ground; improve yourself), dust ourselves off (use your hands to remove dirt from being on the ground), and begin again the work of remaking America.

For everywhere we look, there is work to be done. The state (condition) of the economy calls for action, bold (dramatic, significant) and swift (fast, quick), and we will act — not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation (basis) for growth. We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids (system that carries electrical energy to homes and businesses) and digital lines (telecommunication cables and Internet lines) that feed (supply, help grow) our commerce and bind (join) us together. We will restore science to its rightful (correct, proper) place, and wield (use) technology’s wonders (great things) to raise health care’s quality and lower its cost. We will harness (make use of) the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel (to power, to provide energy for) our cars and run (provide energy for) our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age (time, era). All this we can do. All this we will do.

Now, there are some who question the scale (size) of our ambitions (plans, desires for the future) — who suggest that our system cannot tolerate (support) too many big plans. Their memories are short. For they have forgotten what this country has already done; what free men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to (linked to, connected to) common purpose, and necessity to courage.

What the cynics (people who see problems everywhere or who don’t really believe or trust anything) fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them (things have changed and they haven’t noticed the change yet) — that the stale (old, tired) political arguments that have consumed (taken up or occupied our time and attention) us for so long no longer apply (aren’t relevant, don’t matter). The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works — whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage (an acceptable amount of money from a job), care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified (good, worthy). Where the answer is yes, we intend to (plan to) move forward. Where the answer is no, programs will end. Those of us who manage the public’s dollars will be held to account (held responsible, have to justify ourselves) — to spend wisely (intelligently), reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day — because only then can we restore the vital (important, critical) trust between a people and their government.

Nor is the question before us whether the market is a force (means, a way to) for good or ill (badness, evil). Its power to generate wealth and expand freedom is unmatched (without equal, that no one can equal), but this crisis has reminded us that without a watchful (carefully watching or looking after) eye, the market can spin out of control (become unmanageable, suddenly become much worse) — and that a nation cannot prosper (do well economically) long when it favors (gives preference to or helps) only the prosperous. The success of our economy has always depended not just on the size of our gross domestic product (the amount a country produces every year), but on the reach (extend) of our prosperity; on our ability to extend opportunity to every willing heart (people who want to do something) — not out of charity (kindness), but because it is the surest (most reliable, dependable) route (road, path) to our common good.

As for our common defense (military defense of a country), we reject (say no to, refuse) as false the choice between our safety and our ideals (principles, what we think is right).  Our founding fathers (the people who started our country 200+ years ago) faced with perils (dangers) we can scarcely (hardly, with difficulty) imagine, drafted (wrote) a charter (an agreement, a document with guiding principles) to assure (make sure that there existed) the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood (deaths, when people die for a cause or purpose) of generations.  Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience’s (easy or convenient, but possibly immoral and wrong) sake (for the purpose of).  And so to all the other peoples and governments who are watching today, from the grandest (most famous, largest) capitals to the small village where my father was born: know that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman, and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity (respect), and that we are ready to lead once more.

Recall (remember) that earlier generations faced down (confronted, defeated) fascism and communism (totalitarian governments such as Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union) not just with missiles (large rockets with bombs) and tanks (large motor vehicles with guns), but with sturdy alliances (stable and trustworthy friendships) and enduring (long lasting) convictions (beliefs, ideals). They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle (give us the right) us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent (wise, careful) use; our security emanates (comes from) from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering (moderating, balancing) qualities of humility (not proud, respectful) and restraint (willingness not to do something, to hold yourself back).

We are the keepers (ones who must guard and continue) of this legacy (inheritance, things given to us by previous generations). Guided by (led by) these principles once more, we can meet those new threats (dangers) that demand even greater effort — even greater cooperation and understanding between nations. We will begin to responsibly leave Iraq to its people, and forge (create) a hard-earned (difficult to obtain or get) peace in Afghanistan. With old friends and former foes (enemies), we will work tirelessly to lessen (reduce, decrease) the nuclear threat, and roll back (reverse, fight against) the specter (something bad that is feared or that might come in the future) of a warming planet. We will not apologize for our way of life, nor will we waver (decide not to defend or act) in its defense, and for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing (causing) terror and slaughtering (killing) innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken (changed, defeated); you cannot outlast (live longer or survive longer than) us, and we will defeat you.

For we know that our patchwork (mixed, something that has many different parts) heritage (legacy, what we get from previous generations) is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus — and non-believers. We are shaped (formed, influenced) by every language and culture, drawn from (taken from) every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill (bad taste) of civil war and segregation (dividing people by their race or color of their skin), and emerged (came out of) from that dark chapter (period, time) stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass (stop, end); that the lines of tribe (small groups, usually with narrow interests) shall soon dissolve (end, go away); that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal (show) itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in (leading, helping) a new era (time) of peace.

To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual (common) interest and mutual respect. To those leaders around the globe (Earth, world) who seek to sow (to start) conflict, or blame their society’s ills on the West — know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. To those who cling to power (stay in their positions of power or leadership by force or with difficulty) through corruption (being paid illegally or immorally to do something, usually in government) and deceit (lies) and the silencing of dissent (disagreement with the government), know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist (fist is your hand with the fingers pressed tightly against your palm (closed); to unclench is to open the hand, to extend the fingers outward).

To the people of poor nations, we pledge (promise) to work alongside (with) you to make your farms flourish (do well) and let clean waters flow (move); to nourish (give food to) starved (hungry) bodies and feed hungry minds. And to those nations like ours that enjoy relative plenty (wealth, healthy economies), we say we can no longer afford indifference (not paying attention) to the suffering outside our borders (our own country); nor can we consume the world’s resources without regard to (without considering the impact or thinking about) effect. For the world has changed, and we must change with it.

As we consider the road that unfolds (develops, shows itself) before us, we remember with humble gratitude (thankfulness) those brave Americans who, at this very hour, patrol (guard, usually as part of the military) far-off (distant) deserts and distant mountains. They have something to tell us, just as the fallen (dead, killed) heroes who lie in Arlington (an official government and military cemetery (place where dead bodies are buried) near Washington, D.C.), whisper (speak in a very soft or low voice) through the ages. We honor them not only because they are guardians (protectors) of our liberty, but because they embody (are the best examples of) the spirit of service; a willingness to find meaning in something greater than themselves. And yet, at this moment — a moment that will define (mark, give direction or meaning to) a generation — it is precisely (exactly) this spirit that must inhabit (be part of) us all.

For as much as government can do and must do, it is ultimately (finally, after all other things) the faith and determination (strength and willingness to continue) of the American people upon which this nation relies (depends). It is the kindness to take in a stranger when the levees (walls that prevent a river from overflowing or going onto the surrounding land) break (fall down or open accidentally), the selflessness (kindness, willingness to help others) of workers who would rather cut (reduce) their hours than see a friend lose their job which sees us through our darkest (most difficult) hours. It is the firefighter’s courage to storm (to go into a difficult and dangerous situation) a stairway (part of the building with steps to climb to the next floor or level) filled with smoke, but also a parent’s willingness to nurture a child, that finally decides our fate.

Our challenges may be new. The instruments (means, tools) with which we meet them may be new. But those values upon which our success depends — hard work and honesty, courage and fair play (obeying the rules, doing the right thing), tolerance (accepting others who are different from you) and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism — these things are old. These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history. What is demanded then is a return to these truths. What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility — a recognition (realization, understanding), on the part of (by) every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation, and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly (unwillingly) accept but rather seize (take hold of, accept) gladly (happily), firm (confident) in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to (pleasing to) the spirit, so defining (to give meaning to, to describe accurately) of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task.

This is the price and the promise of citizenship.

This is the source of our confidence — the knowledge that God calls on (asks) us to shape an uncertain destiny (future).

This is the meaning of our liberty and our creed (statement of our beliefs) — why men and women and children of every race and every faith can join in celebration across this magnificent Mall (the large, open space in front of the U.S. Capitol building, where Obama was speaking), and why a man whose father less than sixty years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred (holy) oath (promise).

So let us mark (remember, give meaning to) this day with remembrance, of who we are and how far we have traveled. In the year of America’s birth, in the coldest of months, a small band (group) of patriots (people loyal to their country) huddled (standing close together, usually because they are cold) by dying campfires (fires in the woods or an open field, used for cooking and keeping warm) on the shores (land on either side of a river) of an icy river. The capital (the city where the head of the government is located) was abandoned. The enemy was advancing (coming closer). The snow was stained (colored by) with blood. At a moment when the outcome (final result) of our revolution was most in doubt (unknown, not looking good), the father of our nation (George Washington, our first president and the military leader of the Revolutionary Army in the 1770s) ordered (said, demanded) these words be read to the people:

“Let it be told to the future world … that in the depth (worst part, coldest part) of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive…that the city and the country, alarmed at (frightened by) one common danger, came forth to meet (it) (advanced or move forward to fight and defeat a challenge).”

America, in the face of (threatened by, in the presence of) our common dangers, in this winter of our hardship (difficult times), let us remember these timeless (eternal, long-lasting) words. With hope and virtue, let us brave (confront, go into) once more the icy currents (the movement of a river or ocean), and endure what storms may come.  Let it be said by our children’s children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back (reverse, go back) nor did we falter (become weak, stop moving forward); and with eyes fixed on the horizon (the line where the land meets the sky; the future) and God’s grace upon us, we carried forth (brought forward, carried) that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations.

Thank you. God bless you. And God bless the United States of America.

——-

Here is the text of the speech without explanations:

OBAMA: My fellow citizens:

I stand here today humbled by the task before us, grateful for the trust you have bestowed, mindful of the sacrifices borne by our ancestors. I thank President Bush for his service to our nation, as well as the generosity and cooperation he has shown throughout this transition.
Forty-four Americans have now taken the presidential oath. The words have been spoken during rising tides of prosperity and the still waters of peace. Yet, every so often the oath is taken amidst gathering clouds and raging storms. At these moments, America has carried on not simply because of the skill or vision of those in high office, but because we the people have remained faithful to the ideals of our forebears, and true to our founding documents.

So it has been. So it must be with this generation of Americans.

That we are in the midst of crisis is now well understood. Our nation is at war, against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred. Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some, but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age. Homes have been lost; jobs shed; businesses shuttered. Our health care is too costly; our schools fail too many; and each day brings further evidence that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet.
These are the indicators of crisis, subject to data and statistics. Less measurable but no less profound is a sapping of confidence across our land — a nagging fear that America’s decline is inevitable, and that the next generation must lower its sights.

Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this, America — they will be met.

On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord.

On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics.

We remain a young nation, but in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things. The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.

In reaffirming the greatness of our nation, we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned. Our journey has never been one of shortcuts or settling for less. It has not been the path for the faint-hearted — for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame. Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things — some celebrated but more often men and women obscure in their labor, who have carried us up the long, rugged path towards prosperity and freedom.

For us, they packed up their few worldly possessions and traveled across oceans in search of a new life.

For us, they toiled in sweatshops and settled the West; endured the lash of the whip and plowed the hard earth.

For us, they fought and died, in places like Concord and Gettysburg; Normandy and Khe Sanh.

Time and again these men and women struggled and sacrificed and worked till their hands were raw so that we might live a better life. They saw America as bigger than the sum of our individual ambitions; greater than all the differences of birth or wealth or faction.

This is the journey we continue today. We remain the most prosperous, powerful nation on Earth. Our workers are no less productive than when this crisis began. Our minds are no less inventive, our goods and services no less needed than they were last week or last month or last year. Our capacity remains undiminished. But our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions — that time has surely passed. Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.
For everywhere we look, there is work to be done. The state of the economy calls for action, bold and swift, and we will act — not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth. We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together. We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology’s wonders to raise health care’s quality and lower its cost. We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age. All this we can do. All this we will do.

Now, there are some who question the scale of our ambitions — who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans. Their memories are short. For they have forgotten what this country has already done; what free men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose, and necessity to courage.

What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them — that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply. The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works — whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified. Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward. Where the answer is no, programs will end. Those of us who manage the public’s dollars will be held to account — to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day — because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government.

Nor is the question before us whether the market is a force for good or ill. Its power to generate wealth and expand freedom is unmatched, but this crisis has reminded us that without a watchful eye, the market can spin out of control — and that a nation cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous. The success of our economy has always depended not just on the size of our gross domestic product, but on the reach of our prosperity; on our ability to extend opportunity to every willing heart — not out of charity, but because it is the surest route to our common good.

As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our founding fathers … our found fathers, faced with perils we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience’s sake. And so to all the other peoples and governments who are watching today, from the grandest capitals to the small village where my father was born: know that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman, and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and that we are ready to lead once more.

Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with sturdy alliances and enduring convictions. They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent use; our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.

We are the keepers of this legacy. Guided by these principles once more, we can meet those new threats that demand even greater effort — even greater cooperation and understanding between nations. We will begin to responsibly leave Iraq to its people, and forge a hard-earned peace in Afghanistan. With old friends and former foes, we will work tirelessly to lessen the nuclear threat, and roll back the specter of a warming planet. We will not apologize for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defense, and for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken; you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you.

For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus — and non-believers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.

To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect. To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society’s ills on the West — know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.
To the people of poor nations, we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourish and let clean waters flow; to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds. And to those nations like ours that enjoy relative plenty, we say we can no longer afford indifference to the suffering outside our borders; nor can we consume the world’s resources without regard to effect. For the world has changed, and we must change with it.

As we consider the road that unfolds before us, we remember with humble gratitude those brave Americans who, at this very hour, patrol far-off deserts and distant mountains. They have something to tell us, just as the fallen heroes who lie in Arlington whisper through the ages. We honor them not only because they are guardians of our liberty, but because they embody the spirit of service; a willingness to find meaning in something greater than themselves. And yet, at this moment — a moment that will define a generation — it is precisely this spirit that must inhabit us all.

For as much as government can do and must do, it is ultimately the faith and determination of the American people upon which this nation relies. It is the kindness to take in a stranger when the levees break, the selflessness of workers who would rather cut their hours than see a friend lose their job which sees us through our darkest hours. It is the firefighter’s courage to storm a stairway filled with smoke, but also a parent’s willingness to nurture a child, that finally decides our fate.
Our challenges may be new. The instruments with which we meet them may be new. But those values upon which our success depends — hard work and honesty, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism — these things are old. These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history. What is demanded then is a return to these truths. What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility — a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation, and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task.

This is the price and the promise of citizenship.

This is the source of our confidence — the knowledge that God calls on us to shape an uncertain destiny.

This is the meaning of our liberty and our creed — why men and women and children of every race and every faith can join in celebration across this magnificent Mall, and why a man whose father less than sixty years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath.

So let us mark this day with remembrance, of who we are and how far we have traveled. In the year of America’s birth, in the coldest of months, a small band of patriots huddled by dying campfires on the shores of an icy river. The capital was abandoned. The enemy was advancing. The snow was stained with blood. At a moment when the outcome of our revolution was most in doubt, the father of our nation ordered these words be read to the people:

“Let it be told to the future world … that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive…that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet (it).”

America, in the face of our common dangers, in this winter of our hardship, let us remember these timeless words. With hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may come. Let it be said by our children’s children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God’s grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations.

Thank you. God bless you. And God bless the United States of America.

Tuesday - January 20, 2009

The Oath

CapitolToday Barack Obama becomes the first African American president of the United States.  Standing before the U.S. Capitol building – which was built by black slaves – he will swear an oath (make a promise) that is given in the U.S. Constitution.  It is this:

I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.

To do something solemnly means to do it seriously, to do it intentionally.  To faithfully execute something means to do it exactly as one is supposed to do it.  The office here means the job of president.  The phrase to the best of my ability means as best as I can.  The president promises to preserve (keep safe), protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, which is the main legal document for our national government.

Most presidents, beginning with our first president, George Washington, add the words “so help me God” (may God help me) at the end of the oath, although it is not part of the official oath in the Constitution.

Congratulations to President Obama!

~Jeff

Thursday - January 15, 2009

Professional Sports Team Names II

Basketball 2Last week, I talked about the meaning of some popular professional basketball teams in the US.  This is part 2 of that explanation.  Here are a few more team names and their meaning:

San Antonio Spurs: A spur is something that is worn by a cowboy on his boot that is used to hit the horse in order to get it to move more quickly.  San Antonio is located in Texas, which is famous for its cowboys.  (In fact, the American football team in Dallas is called the Dallas Cowboys.)

Philadelphia 76ers:  The number 76 refers to the year 1776, when in the city of Philadelphia, a group of American colonists signed the Declaration of Independence, claiming their independence from Great Britain.  Every year on July 4th, we celebrate that event as a national holiday, Independence Day.  This team is also sometimes known simply as the “Sixers” which is just short for (a shortened form of) 76ers.

Dallas Mavericks:  A maverick is a person who doesn’t follow the rules, who does things his or her own way and is very independent.  The state of Texas, where Dallas is located, has a reputation in the United States for being full of people who are very independent and proud, people who like to do things differently.  This team is also sometimes called “the Mavs” for short.  The word maverick was used also to describe the Republican candidate for president, Senator John McCain, in the last presidential campaign.

Los Angeles Clippers:   A clipper is a type of tall ship that has large sails (white pieces of fabric that “catch” the wind in order to move the ship forward).  This team was originally the San Diego Clippers before it moved to Los Angeles.  San Diego, like Los Angeles, is on the Pacific Ocean, and sailing is a popular sport there.

I could probably do 100 blog posts on professional sports team names, but that’s enough for now!

~Jeff

Wednesday - January 14, 2009

NEW COURSE: “Introduction to the United States”

home_page_book_cover1.jpgWe are very happy to announce a new course available in the ESL Podcast Store: “Introduction to the United States.” This course is for anyone interested in learning more about the U.S., while improving their English.

We’ve taken the 100 questions asked on the U.S. citizenship test, the test taken by people who want to become an American citizen. However, we go far beyond the simple answers. We give explanations about how the U.S. government works, major events in U.S. history, and the people who helped create this country. Each explanation brings the facts about the history and stories behind the simple answers alive, making it easy to learn about the U.S. as you improve your English.

Learn more about “Introduction to the United States” here and you can listen to a sample by clicking on “Listen to a sample” after clicking on any of the course options.

We hope you enjoy this new course!

~ Jeff and Lucy

Tuesday - January 13, 2009

American English and British English

250px-flag_-_great_britain.jpgWe often get emails from listeners asking us to talk about British English or to tell them the British English equivalent (the same thing in another language/dialect) in our podcasts. We would like to be able to do this, but there’s one major problem: We don’t speak British English!

It’s true that many Americans know some basic differences between these two dialects (forms of a language), but we are just as likely to use British English wrong as we are to use it correctly since we are not native speakers of it. It doesn’t make sense for us to try to teach you British English when we aren’t sure of it ourselves. It would be truly a case of the blind leading the blind (someone who doesn’t know what he/she is doing trying to lead others to do the same thing).

However, for those of you interested in the differences, there are some resources (useful things) available on the web. For a quick look at some of the differences in spelling, look here, and for vocabulary differences, take a look here.

Most of what is available shows spelling or vocabulary differences, though British and American English differ in many, many other ways. Rather than to memorize a list of words or spellings, however, we urge (encourage) those who want to learn British English to listen to it, as they do to ESL Podcast to learn American English. The BBC, British Broadcasting Corporation, for example, has an entire website devoted to teaching British English.

~ Lucy

Thursday - January 8, 2009

Professional Sports Team Names I

BasketballIf you have listened to many of our episodes, you know that I am a big baseball fan (see English Café #50, for example).  However, I know there are some of you who are fans of other popular American sports, including professional basketball.  Since fall and winter are the seasons when basketball is typically played in the US, I thought I would answer a question from Renzo in Italy about the meaning of the names of some of the professional sports teams in the National Basketball Association, or NBA, as it is known here.

We’ll start with the Los Angeles Lakers.  What, you may be asking, is a “Laker”?  The name of the team is even more confusing if you know that Los Angeles is located in a very dry area with very few natural lakes.  So why the Lakers?  Well, as has happened with many US professional sports teams over the past 100 years or so, the Los Angeles Lakers moved from a different city to Southern California several years ago.  Before they were in Los Angeles, they were in Minneapolis, Minnesota, which is the city next to where I grew up (in St. Paul).  Minneapolis is known as the “City of Lakes,” because it has so many lakes.  (In fact, the state of Minnesota is known as the “Land of 10,000 Lakes,” because there are so many lakes in Minnesota.  There are actually more than 15,000 lakes, but Minnesotans are known for their modesty (not bragging or being too proud).)  So the word “Laker” referred to all of the lakes in Minneapolis.  When the team moved to Los Angeles, it simply kept the old name and changed the city.

Here are some other sports teams and the meanings of their names in the NBA:

New York Knicks: The word “Knicks” is short for “knickerbockers” which is actually the official name of the team, the New York Knickerbockers.  Knickerbockers are a type of pants that were worn by the people who settled New York many years ago, the Dutch (people from the European country of The Netherlands).  During the 19th century, the word knickerbocker was closely associated with New York City, and so it was used when the team was first formed back in the mid-1940s.  The Knicks are one of only two teams in the NBA that have not moved cities.  The other one is the…

Boston Celtics:  The word Celtic refers generally to a certain ethnic group in Europe, the Celts.  The Celts lived in different parts of Europe, including Ireland.  During the 19th century, there were many Irish immigrants who moved to Boston, and even to this day Boston has a very large and influential Irish-American population.  It is no coincidence (it is to be expected) that the most famous Irish-American politician, our late President John F. Kennedy, was elected first as a senator from the state of Massachusetts, where Boston is located.

I’ll talk about some more teams next week.

~Jeff

Thursday - January 1, 2009

New Year, New Hope

New YearsAs the economy worsens (gets worse), many Americans are having to change their spending habits (the way that they spend their money). According to one recent survey, many Americans are making changes in their behavior because of financial difficulties. Here are some things that Americans say they are doing differently now:

  • Cutting (Reducing) Vacation Spending: 59% of those Americans surveyed (asked this question) said they are now spending less on their vacations than they used to.
  • Eating Out (Eating at Restaurants) Less Often: 55% of Americans are now cooking more of their meals at home. Many restaurants are suffering because of this.
  • Changing the Way They Save: About 48% of Americans say they are saving more money now than they used to — saving instead of spending.
  • Delaying (Postponing, Waiting until Later to) Buying a Major Home Appliance: A home appliance is something like a refrigerator, stove, or other large machine that you may use in your house. Major simply means large, expensive, or important. 39% of Americans say that they are delaying buying a major home appliance.
  • Delaying Buying a New Car: 36% of Americans said they are waiting before buying a new car. The US car companies are doing so poorly that they have had to ask the federal government to give them money in order to survive.
  • Adjusting Retirement Plans: 26% of Americans say that they are changing their plans about when they will stop working when they get older. Typically, this means that people who thought they were going to retire are keeping their jobs, especially if their investments for retirement are worth less than they were before this economic recession. Although the United States has a government retirement program (called Social Security), most Americans depend on their own private retirement accounts to pay for their expenses when they are old.

We can only hope that the economy will improve here in the United States, something that may take a long time to happen, however. We all hope this new year really will be happier than the old one.

~Jeff