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Young American Voters Could Decide This Year's Presidential Election


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Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC in VOA Special English.

I'm Doug Johnson. This week:

We tell about the growing importance of young voters in the presidential election next month ...

Listen to new music from Conor Oberst ...

And answer a question about the actor, race car driver and humanitarian Paul Newman who died two weeks ago.

Youth Vote

Political experts are predicting a record number of voters in the American presidential election next month between Senators Barack Obama and John McCain. Many believe this increase is partly because of the number of young people who will be voting. Both candidates have made big efforts to reach out to the more than forty million Americans between the ages of eighteen and thirty. Barbara Klein has more.

In the past, many young Americans did not think it was important to vote in elections. Experts say candidates and their political parties ignored young voters. But young people are becoming more politically active.

For example, in the election of two thousand four, twenty million young people voted. This was an increase of two million voters from the election of two thousand.

Political expert Larry Sabato predicts high numbers of young voters next month.

LARRY SABATO:"They are going to equal their percentage of the population and I think that is remarkable. They had been well below their percentage of the population at least since that early period when young people got the vote in the early nineteen seventies."

Across the United States, students at colleges and universities are helping their classmates complete the documents necessary to vote. Jessica White is a twenty-one year old student at the University of Virginia who is helping students register to vote.

JESSICA WHITE: "I have seen a lot of enthusiasm in a lot of the first-years coming in for orientation sessions here at school, and they seem really excited."

Stephanie Young works for the organization Rock the Vote. She says this year's election is based on issues that are very important to young people. Ms. Young says these include the economy, the war in Iraq and health care. She says young people are unhappy with the direction the country has been going. And she says many young people agree with Senator Barack Obama's call for change on these issues.

A recent study by the Harvard University Institute of Politics shows that fifty-five percent of young voters support Senator Obama. Thirty-two percent support Senator McCain. Mr. Obama's campaign has been built around paying attention to these young voters.

Organizations like Rock the Vote and Declare Yourself are using technology to get young people interested in the political process and to help them register to vote. They use Web sites like Facebook and MySpace to connect with large numbers of young people. People from these organizations also travel to schools and colleges to meet with young people. The candidates also are using these Web sites to stay connected to the young voters who may decide the election on November fourth.

Paul Newman

This week's listener question comes from Iran. Mohamed Firouzi wants to know about the actor Paul Newman, who died last month.

Paul Newman was one of the most famous, well respected and good- looking actors in American movies. He often played rebellious characters who were very likeable and real. During his more than fifty-year career he made over sixty-five movies. Some of his most famous roles were in "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof", "Cool Hand Luke" and "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid." "The Hustler" came out in nineteen sixty-one. Paul Newman plays the role of Fast Eddie Felson who plays the game of pool against other players to gain money.

Eddie: "How should I play that one, Bert? Play it safe? That's the way you always told me to play it, safe, play the percentage. Well, here we go, fast and loose. One ball, corner pocket. Yeah, percentage players die broke too, don't they, Bert?"

Paul Leonard Newman was born in Cleveland, Ohio in nineteen twenty-five. During high school and college, he enjoyed acting in plays. After serving in World War Two, Newman continued acting in small professional theater companies. He also studied theater at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. Paul Newman acted in television plays and on Broadway in New York City before finding work in the movies. His first movie, "The Silver Chalice" was not successful. But Paul Newman made up for a bad start with a series of great movies that have become favorites around the world.

Paul Newman met his second wife, Joanne Woodward, while he was acting in New York City. They married in nineteen fifty-eight and appeared in several movies together. Newman also directed several movies starring his wife, including "Rachel, Rachel" and "The Glass Menagerie."

During his career he received ten Academy Award nominations. He won for his performance in the nineteen eighty-six movie "The Color of Money." This movie continues the story of Fast Eddie Felson from "The Hustler."

Paul Newman was not only a great actor. He was also a skilled racecar driver. And he was a political activist who fought for liberal causes. But what Paul Newman would probably most like to be remembered for was his social activism. The "Newman's Own" food company has donated more than two hundred fifty thousand dollars in profits to humanitarian causes. He helped create the Hole in the Wall Gang Camps in the United States and several other countries. This organization provides free summer camp experiences for children with serious sicknesses like cancer.

Paul Newman died on September twenty-sixth of cancer. He was eighty-three. He was a star both in the movies and in real life.

You can learn more about Paul Newman on the Special English program People in America on Sunday.

Conor Oberst

Conor Oberst has been making music since he was thirteen years old. The twenty-eight year old musician from Omaha, Nebraska is best known for his band, Bright Eyes. Conor Oberst released his latest album under his own name. His aim was to create simplified songs with only a few musicians. These songs tell about love, death and traveling. Bob Doughty has more.

That was the song "Moab" from the album "Conor Oberst." It expresses the ways in which travel can be healing. Oberst and his Mystic Valley band would know. They recorded this album in Mexico. Oberst said he did not feel like being in a studio while making this new album. He wanted to be somewhere warm, beautiful and far away.

Here is the song " I Don't Want to Die (in the Hospital)." It may sound like a sad song. But Oberst says it is a "jailbreak song." Oberst's seventy-five year old friend told him that he was not afraid of dying, but did not want to die in the restricted space of a hospital. The friend wanted to be outside under the stars instead. He told Oberst to help him escape if he ever became stuck in a hospital.

Critics have praised Conor Oberst as a musician and songwriter. He is often compared to the great musician Bob Dylan. And, Rolling Stone magazine named Oberst one of the best songwriters of this year. This fall Oberst and his band will travel in Australia and the United States performing their music. We leave you with the poetic song "Cape Canaveral."

I'm Doug Johnson. I hope you enjoyed our program today.

It was written and produced by Dana Demange. To read and listen to our programs online, go to voaspecialenglish.com.

Send your questions about American life to mosaic@voanews.com.  Join us again next week for AMERICAN MOSAIC, VOA's radio magazine in Special English.

CORRECTION: In the story about Paul Newman, the text should have read: "The 'Newman's Own' food company has donated more than two hundred fifty million dollars in profits to humanitarian causes."


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