Speeches That Sent Off the Graduates of 2010

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Welcome to American Mosaic in VOA Special English. I'm Doug Johnson.

  • Today we listen to new music from Mary Chapin Carpenter.
  • And answer a question about turkeys.
  • But first, we help send off the college graduates of two thousand ten.

Graduation Speeches

During the months of May and June, colleges and universities across the United States hold graduation ceremonies. Many schools ask a special person to speak to students during the ceremony. Mario Ritter tells us about several of this year's famous graduation speakers.

MICHELLE OBAMA: "I have one more request to make of you. One more challenge. And that is keep going. Keep giving. Keep engaging. I'm asking you to take what you've learned here and embrace the full responsibilities that a degree from an institution like GW gives you. I'm asking your generation to be America's face to the world."

That was part of a speech that first lady Michelle Obama gave at George Washington University's graduation ceremony in Washington, D.C. In September, Missus Obama gave GW students and teachers a test.

She said that if they could complete one hundred thousand hours of community service, she would give the graduation speech in May. The students and teachers more than met her request. They completed over one hundred sixty-three thousand hours of volunteer work.

Missus Obama joked that if she had known, she would have picked a higher number. She called on GW students to continue to open their minds and serve others.

President Obama was also busy with graduation speeches. At the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor he spoke about creating smarter and better government. He also spoke at Hampton University, a historically black university in Virginia. And he spoke at the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York.

BARACK OBAMA: "And the faces in this stadium show a simple truth: America's Army represents the full breadth of America's experience. You come from every corner of our country -- from privilege and from poverty, from cities and small towns. You worship all of the great religions that enrich the life of our people. You include the vast diversity of race and ethnicity that is fundamental to our nation's strength."

Several famous actors also spoke at college graduation ceremonies this month. Meryl Streep spoke to the female graduates at Barnard College in New York City. She described her many early efforts at acting during childhood. She made a strong statement about the important role of women today.

Alec Baldwin spoke at New York University about the importance of taking risks in life. And, actress Lisa Kudrow spoke at Vasser College in Poughkeepsie, New York.

The writer John Grisham gave many words of advice to students at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He told them to call home once a week and to read at least one book a month. He also called on the graduates to work on finding a voice for themselves that is clear and truthful.


Our listener question this week is from China. Jaetyn Wang wants to know if Americans eat turkey at times other than Thanksgiving. The answer is: Yes! Americans eat turkeys and many foods made with turkey meat all year.

Most of the turkeys eaten in the United States are raised on farms. These are called domesticated turkeys. Americans buy these birds at supermarkets. Some are fresh but most have been frozen. They all need to be cooked in an oven for several hours.

Most domesticated turkeys are grown in the state of Minnesota. The National Turkey Federation says that more than ninety percent of Americans eat turkey at Thanksgiving in November.

Mary Chapin Carpenter

Three years ago, Mary Chapin Carpenter suffered a life-threatening blood clot in her lungs. Afterwards, she spent the years resting and wondering what to do with her extra time. She turned to writing music. She says like many of her albums, "The Age of Miracles" gives a brief look at where she is in her life.

But not all songs on the record are about her own experiences. One song tells about American writer Ernest Hemingway's first wife. Another, called "4 June 1989," discusses the efforts of the Chinese artist and activist Chen Guang. Here is the song "I Was a Bird" in which she dreams about flying high in the sky.

In April, Carpenter received a "Spirit of Americana" award for free speech in music. The award is from the Americana Music Association and Newseum in Washington, D.C. It honors artists who support freedom of speech in their work.

We leave you with the album's title song, "The Age of Miracles." Mary Chapin Carpenter describes real events such as Hurricane Katrina, landing on the moon, and protests by religious workers in Burma. She says the song expresses a sense of wonder about the times we live in.

I'm Doug Johnson. Our program was written by Jim Tedder and Dana Demange, who was also the producer.

You can find transcripts, MP3s and podcasts of our shows at voaspecialenglish.com. If you have a question about American life, send an e-mail to [email protected] We might answer in 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.