DOUG JOHNSON: Welcome to American Mosaic in VOA Special English.
I'm Doug Johnson.
Today, we play music from a new album by singer Raul Malo...
We also answer a question about the name of our show...
But first, a report on former President Jimmy Carter, his new book and recent honor for charitable work.
DOUG JOHNSON: Former President Jimmy Carter did not slow down when he left the White House in nineteen eighty-one. He and his wife Rosalynn started the Carter Center the following year. The organization works to build peace, fight disease and end suffering around the world.
The couple also helped establish the Carter Presidential Library and Museum in Atlanta, Georgia. They have been strong supporters of Habitat for Humanity for many years. And, President Carter has helped settle disputes or hostage situations on almost every continent.
But the past few weeks have been exceptionally busy, even for the home-building, peace-making, disease-battling former leader. Faith Lapidus has our story.
FAITH LAPIDUS: Jimmy Carter's twenty-eighth book, "White House Diary," arrived in bookstores late last month. It is a record of his daily personal writings when he was president.
"White House Diary" has received both criticism and praise. Reviewers have said there are no major surprises in the book. However, most have noted its sharp honesty. For example, President Carter writes that the House of Representatives was "ridiculously irresponsible this week." He then describes its members as "a bunch of disorganized juvenile delinquents." Critics say the book gives a good sense of what it is like to be president of the United States.
For several weeks, the former president has been traveling to many cities to talk about the book. He got sick with a stomach infection during the book tour. He spent a few days in a hospital in Cleveland, Ohio. He was released September thirtieth, the day before his eighty-sixth birthday. Then he traveled to the nation's capital.
While in Washington last week, he and Mrs. Carter helped build homes for the poor in the city. They also attended a Habitat for Humanity celebration in their honor.
About five hundred guests attended the event. It was called "Thanks a Million! A Gala Salute to the Life and Service of Our Most Famous Volunteers Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter." The blues-rock band Blind Boys of Alabama performed. Organizers also showed a film about the Carters and their twenty-seven years of work for the organization.
President Carter told the gathering that he was embarrassed by such honors. He described their work for Habitat for Humanity: "Every year we get more out of it than we put into it."
DOUG JOHNSON: Several listeners have asked us about the meaning of the name of this program, "American Mosaic."
We will answer that question as a way to help celebrate the fifty-first anniversary of Special English next week. Special English began on October nineteenth, nineteen fifty-nine. Voice of America officials wanted a program to communicate with people learning English. They wanted a way for people to get to know the language and at the same time learn about the United States and world news.
Special English writing is limited as much as possible to about one thousand five hundred words. Special English uses short sentences. And it is read at a slower speed than normal English.
The program "American Mosaic" began in nineteen eighty-five. We wanted to broadcast a show that young people would like. We wanted to tell about American culture, answer questions from listeners and play popular music. But we could not agree about what to call the program. Since it is broadcast every Friday, we began with the name "The Friday Program." But we wanted a better name. So we announced a contest for listeners to send in their suggestions.
Two people won the contest. Listeners from China and Egypt both suggested the same name: "American Mosaic." Mosaic is spelled m-o-s-a-i-c. The dictionary says that the English word "mosaic" means a picture or design that is made by placing small colored pieces together. You can see colorful mosaics in art and in designs on buildings.
We chose the name "American Mosaic" because the purpose of the show is to create a picture of life in this country through many small stories. Each story is different, like the different pieces of a mosaic. But together, they form a complete picture. We hope that our radio mosaic provides a complete and interesting picture of life in the United States.
Raul Malo: "Sinners and Saints"
DOUG JOHNSON: Raul Malo is best known as the leader of the former band the Mavericks even though it broke up ten years ago. Malo's latest album, "Sinners and Saints," came out last week. Bob Doughty has more.
BOB DOUGHTY: That song is "Sinners and Saints," the title track to Raul Malo's sixth solo album. He says he wrote most of the songs himself. Malo told Spinner.com that "Sinners and Saints" was his first concept album.
He said the songs are about the unending struggle in life between good and evil and the necessary balance of these qualities to make the world go round.
In "Staying Here," Malo sings about a family in which one parent is considering leaving the other.
Raul Malo was born in Miami, Florida to Cuban parents. One of the songs he did not write on "Sinners and Saints" is in Spanish. Here is "Sombras."
Raul Malo's musical influences include rock and roll and country music stars like Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash. But he also enjoys listening to opera. Some critics compare Malo's powerful voice to that of opera singers.
We leave you with "Saint Behind the Glass" from Raul Malo's album, "Sinners and Saints."
DOUG JOHNSON: I'm Doug Johnson. Our program was written and produced by Caty Weaver. You can get transcripts, MP3s and podcasts of our shows at 51voa.com. You can also find us on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube at VOA Learning English.
If you have a question about American life send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. We might answer your question on this show. Please remember to tell us your name and where you live.
Join us again next week for AMERICAN MOSAIC, VOA's radio magazine in Special English.