Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC in VOA Special English.
I'm Doug Johnson.
Today we play music by Gnarls Barkley …
Answer a question about Flag Day …
And report on a "volunteer vacation" at a Habitat for Humanity home building project.
Habitat for Humanity
Volunteers from across the United States and other countries went to the Gulf Coast last month to rebuild communities destroyed by Hurricane Katrina in two thousand five. One VOA employee was among them. Barbara Klein has more.
Habitat for Humanity is an international nonprofit group that invites people to build houses together with families in need. It has built more than two hundred fifty thousand houses around the world since it began in nineteen seventy-six.
This year, Habitat for Humanity organized a special five-day project. It observed twenty-five years of leadership in the organization by former President Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalyn Carter. Two thousand five hundred volunteers took part in building projects in six cities in Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi. The Carters helped build a new house and visited the project work sites.
One of the volunteers was Erin Brummett, the moderator and executive producer of VOA's T2A Web chat. She decided to spend a week of her vacation time in Pascagoula, Mississippi. She helped build a house for Kim Edwards and her teenage daughter, Miah.
Ms. Brummett says she has been concerned about the problems in rebuilding communities destroyed by the hurricane. "It still troubles me that a rich country like ours struggles to help its own people more than two and a half years after a disaster," she says.
During the Christmas holiday last year, she decided that helping to build a house would be her present to the people of the Gulf Coast. But, she said, it turned out that "they were the gift." She says, "The experience provided people like me with the chance to do something important."
The building teams included between eight and twenty volunteers. Ms. Brummett, who is forty-five, did not realize how hard building a house would be. Like many of us at VOA, she sits at a computer most of the day and does not get a lot of exercise. During her Habitat experience, she says, "I found muscles in my body that I never knew existed."
In the middle of the week she started taking pain relief medicine. She says her hand swelled and grew larger than normal from using a hammer and paint brush for many hours. And her feet hurt from standing all the time. But, she says, "That was a very small price to pay."
Erin Brummett says she was happy to be on a team of experienced volunteers who have built houses for several years. She says the team leaders were in the construction business and were the best teachers anyone could have. And, she says, "I can do anything now."
Erin Brummett says the best part of the experience was the satisfaction of using her own hands to help give a family a new home.
Our VOA question this week comes from Vietnam. Duc Nguyen asks about the Flag Day holiday.
Perfect timing! Flag Day is tomorrow, June fourteenth. Every year, shortly before June fourteenth, the president of the United States signs a document declaring "Flag Day and National Flag Week."
Some Americans will fly an American flag outside their house on Saturday. Still, many Americans will not even know it is Flag Day. They do not get a day off work. They do not buy or receive anything. And, as far as we know there are no big stores holding "Flag Day" sales.
Flag Day observes the anniversary of the day America's first lawmakers approved the design of a new flag for a new nation.
The United States of America began as thirteen British colonies. Each colony had its own flag. But the colonists fought under a common flag during the Revolutionary War against Britain. It looked a lot like the American flag today. That flag had thirteen red and white stripes for the thirteen colonies. It also had a square blue area in the upper left corner. Inside that area were the red cross and white lines of the British flag.
On July fourth, seventeen seventy-six, the American colonists declared their independence. The United States of America was born. The Continental Congress of the new nation approved a new flag on June fourteenth of the following year. The thirteen red and white stripes remained. Thirteen white stars replaced the British flag inside the blue area. The thirteen stars represented, in the words of Congress, "a new constellation."
In eighteen eighteen, Congress approved a law that said a new star would be added to the flag for each new state that joined the union. Today, there are fifty states, and fifty white stars in the blue area of the flag.
There is a famous story that a woman named Betsy Ross made the first American flag. Betsy Ross was a sewing expert in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She was the official flag maker for the Pennsylvania navy. But, historians have not been able to confirm that she made the first American flag.
Gnarls Barkley is the name of a group of two performers, Danger Mouse and Cee-Lo Green. In two thousand six, their song "Crazy" became one of the most popular songs of the year. Their new album, "The Odd Couple," is filled with energetic songs that tell about pain and conflict. Faith Lapidus has more.
(MUSIC: "Going On")
That was the song "Going On." It is a good example of Gnarls Barkley's music, which combines soul and electronic sounds. Cee-Lo Green is a soul and hip-hop singer whose voice you hear on these songs. Danger Mouse, whose real name is Brian Burton, creates and produces the music. Both had musical careers before they joined together to form Gnarls Barkley.
Danger Mouse is best known for creating an unofficial album called "The Gray Album." It combined music from the Beatles and the rapper Jay-Z. The album was illegal because Danger Mouse did not have permission to use some of the songs. But, it still became a huge success.
Gnarls Barkley's latest album, "The Odd Couple," was released in late March. Here is "Who's Gonna Save My Soul."
Gnarls Barkley's live performances are interesting to watch. They perform with many different musicians. And, they often wear unusual clothing. For example, they performed in two thousand six at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in California. Gnarls Barkley and other musicians dressed like characters from the movie "The Wizard of Oz."
We leave you with the song "Run."
I'm Doug Johnson. I hope you enjoyed our program today.
It was written by Shelley Gollust, Caty Weaver and Dana Demange, who also was the producer. To read the text of this program and download audio, go to our Web site, voaspecialenglish.com.
Join us again next week for AMERICAN MOSAIC, VOA's radio magazine in Special English.