Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC in VOA Special English.
I'm Doug Johnson. This week:
We listen to music from the Four Tops, whose lead singer, Levi Stubbs, died recently …
Answer a listener question about the electoral college in the United States …
And report about how everyday Americans can perform weddings.
Online Wedding Officiants
Weddings in America are often big, complex and costly events. Usually a religious leader or judge performs the marriage ceremony. But now people can choose a friend or family member to perform the ceremony. That person can become an official marriage officiant online through some unusual Web sites. Faith Lapidus tells us more.
One Web site is called Church of the Latter-Day Dude. It is named for a character called the Dude in the movie "The Big Lebowski." The Church of the Latter-Day Dude appeals to visitors to "join the slowest-growing religion in the world – Dudeism."
Its members do not believe in telling people what to do. In fact, they do not believe in doing much at all. But they are happy to provide people with a "certificate of ordination." The Web site says the document legally permits a person to perform a wedding ceremony in most states. But it also says a person should check with the local government to see if this is permitted.
Other Web sites offering free and immediate ordination services include the Universal Life Church Monastery and the Church of Spiritual Humanism. The Universal Life Church says it welcomes all people who show interest in becoming ministers, whether they are religious or not. The church claims to have ordained more than twenty million ministers online around the world.
One of those people is writer George Estreich of Corvallis, Oregon. Exactly five months ago, he performed his first wedding ceremony. The groom was Michael Filtz, the younger brother of his wife. The bride was Mallika Good.
Mr. Filtz and Ms. Good said they thought about asking Mr. Estreich to be their officiant early in the planning process. George Estreich was almost fifteen years older than Michael Filtz and they were very close. The bride and groom knew that, as a writer, Mr. Estreich would be good with words. So they went online and found the Universal Life Church. They asked Mr. Estreich if he would become a Universal Life Church minister and marry them. He agreed.
On the evening of May thirty-first, George Estreich performed the marriage ceremony of Michael Filtz and Mallika Good. It took place in the garden of the Newton White Mansion in Mitchellville, Maryland. He spoke to the guests about Mike as a child and about Mike and Mallika as a couple. The two hundred guests enjoyed the ceremony and the party that included cultural traditions of both families.
Our question this week comes from listeners in Italy and Nigeria. Mariella and Idris want to know about the Electoral College. Is it true that this system could elect a president who was not chosen by popular vote?
The answer is yes. It has happened four times. The most recent was in two thousand when George W. Bush was elected to his first term in office as president. Five hundred thousand more Americans voted for Senator Al Gore for president. But more electoral votes went to Mr. Bush.
This is because forty-eight of the fifty states have a winner-take-all electoral votes policy. The candidate who wins the highest number of popular votes in a state receives all of that state's electoral votes.
The Electoral College is made up of representatives from all fifty states and the District of Columbia. Electors are appointed representatives who promise to vote as the people of the state guide them. Different states have different laws on the appointment of the electors. But political parties often nominate people to recognize their service to their party. In some states, the names of the electors appear on the ballot, below the names of the candidates.
The number of electoral votes in each state equals the number of representatives and senators in Congress from that state. This depends on population. So, states with more people have more electoral votes. In all, there are five hundred thirty-eight electoral votes. To become president, a candidate must win a simple majority, at least two hundred seventy.
Critics of the Electoral College system call it undemocratic, difficult to understand and dangerous to the political system. Supporters say it helps to guarantee the rights of states with small populations. They say it also requires candidates to campaign in many states, not just those with large populations.
There have been hundreds of proposals in Congress to end or reform the Electoral College. But amending the Constitution is a difficult process.
This year the electors will meet in their state capitals on December fifteenth to cast their votes for president of the United States. But we hope to know the answer to that question just hours after voting ends on November fourth.
You can learn more about the presidential candidates and issues on the Special English program This is America on Monday, November third.
Levi Stubbs, lead singer of the famous pop singing group, the Four Tops, died earlier this month. He was seventy-two. Barabara Klein tells us about the popular singer who helped define the "Motown" sound and build Motown Records into a hit machine.
The Four Tops released that song, "Baby I Need Your Loving," in nineteen sixty-four. It was the group's first hit on the popular record ratings charts. It was also their first song to sell one million copies.
The group's lead singer was born Levi Stubbles in Detroit, Michigan, in nineteen thirty-six. He and three friends formed a singing group while in high school, called the Four Aims. It was clear early on that Levi with his deep, pure voice would lead the singing.
The group became the Four Tops and signed with Chess Records in nineteen fifty-six. The singers were more interested in jazz music than pop. They left Detroit for New York City. Motown Records leader Berry Gordy saw them perform one night and asked them to join his record company. Many pop hits followed.
Levi Stubbs had suffered health problems following a series of strokes that ended his career in two thousand. We leave you with another Four Tops hit, "Reach Out, I'll Be There."
I'm Doug Johnson. I hope you enjoyed our program today.
It was written and produced by Caty Weaver. To read the text of this program and download audio, go to our Web site, voaspecialenglish.com.
Send your questions about American life to email@example.com. Please include your full name and mailing address. Or write to AMERICAN MOSAIC, VOA Special English, Washington, D.C., two-zero-two-three-seven, U.S.A.
Join us again next week for AMERICAN MOSAIC, VOA's radio magazine in Special English.