Episode 49: President George Washington

Welcome to Slow American English, the podcast for learners of American English. I’m your host, Karren Tolliver.

This is episode number 49: President George Washington

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Transcript:

George Washington was born in Virginia in 1732. His family had a successful plantation, which he later owned. During the Revolutionary War for independence against Great Britain, Washington was commander of the American army. He became a national hero because of this. He was one of America’s Founding Fathers. They wrote the Constitution of the United States. He was the first to sign it, too.

The electoral college elected George Washington as the first president in 1789 and again in 1792. He is the only president to be elected unanimously. For this and many other reasons, Washington is called the Father of Our Country.

He decided not to be president for a third term, although everyone wanted him to. This tradition was followed by all other presidents for 150 years. In 1947, this two-term limit was made into law.

Washington knew that everyone was watching everything he did as the first US president. He knew his actions would be examples for all other presidents to follow. Therefore, he was very careful to be a very strong leader. For example, he organized the president’s Cabinet well. He also allowed the other branches of government to balance the power of the president.

Of course, you can look up all this history if you are interested. However, I want to tell you some of the things about George Washington that Americans learn as children:

  • There is a story about George Washington which is probably not true. It says that, when he was a child, George Washington chopped down his father’s cherry tree. It was a terrible thing to do. When his father asked who did it, George replied, “I cannot tell a lie. I chopped down the cherry tree.” This legend shows how honest he was.

  • Another story says that, as a boy, George Washington threw a silver dollar across the Potomac River in Maryland. This can’t be true. There were no silver dollars then and the river was too wide.

  • A true fact about George Washington: He had false teeth made of wood!

  • George Washington’s wife’s name was Martha.

  • Washington’s plantation and home was Mount Vernon, VA. You can visit it today.

  • When he led the army during the Revolution, Washington and his soldiers crossed the Delaware River on Christmas night, 1776. They went into New Jersey for a surprise attack on the enemy. There is a famous painting by George Cableb Bingham called Washington Crossing the Delaware.

  • Also during the Revolutionary War, Washington and his soldiers camped in Valley Forge, PA. It was the hard winter of 1777-78. They survived and trained there to become a strong army. They were able to defeat the British soldiers in the spring.

Today, George Washington’s face is on the US dollar bill and the quarter coin. In addition, many parks, streets, schools and even people have been named after him. The state of Washington and Washington, DC, are also named after him. In addition, the very tall Washington Monument stands in front of the nation’s capitol building in Washington, DC.

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That’s the podcast for this time. Slow American English is written and produced by Karren Tolliver. Copyright 2019. All rights reserved.

For free transcripts and to subscribe to the podcast, visit www.SlowAmericanEnglish.net. You can also subscribe via Apple Podcasts, Google Play Music, TuneIn, Stitcher and any other podcast feed reader.

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This has been Slow American English. I’m Karren Tolliver. Thank you for listening.

Episode 6 (formerly 1506): The Constitution and Federal Government

Transcript:

“We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

This is the famous preamble to the US Constitution. Written at the beginning of this historic document, the preamble is a summary, or mission statement, describing the goals the Founding Fathers hoped to accomplish. The Founding Fathers were a group of important statesmen, including George Washington, Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson.

The Constitution was written in Independence Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It was ratified in 1789 and replaced the Articles of Confederation, which had governed the original 13 US states since the Declaration of Independence in 1776.

The Constitution was the first of its kind and has become the model for other constitutions in other countries. It originally consisted of only five pages, and remains the shortest existing constitution of any country in the world today.

In 1791, the first 10 amendments were ratified and became additions to the Constitution. These ten amendments are referred to as the Bill of Rights. It guarantees personal, individual freedoms for citizens. Since then, only 17 more amendments have been added to the Constitution. Of course, volumes of constitutional laws have been written over the years to clarify and enhance the concepts set forth by the Constitution.

The main idea behind the Constitution is separation of governmental power so that the federal government does not have too much control. To this end, three branches of government were established: legislative, executive and judicial. This system is designed so that no branch has more power than the other. It is known as the system of checks and balances.

The legislative branch includes Congress and is responsible for making laws. It consists of a bicameral legislature made up of the Senate and the House of Representatives. All of the members of Congress are elected by the people. Two senators are selected from each state to make up the Senate. The House of Representatives is comprised of 435 representatives. The number of representatives from each state is based on population.

The executive branch is tasked with carrying out the laws made by Congress. This branch consists of the president, vice-president, the Cabinet and executive departments and committees. The president’s Cabinet, whose members head the executive departments, are also considered his expert advisors. The people elect the president and vice-president. The rest of the executive branch is appointed by the president and approved by Congress.

The third branch, the judicial branch, interprets the laws made by the legislative branch and decides if the laws violate the Constitution. This branch consists of the Supreme Court and other federal courts. The Supreme Court is the highest court in the land. Its nine judges are appointed by the president and approved by Congress.

Additionally, another way that the power is distributed in the United States is that the individual states can make their own laws. The Tenth Amendment to the Constitution says that any power not specifically granted to the federal government falls to the states. Most states have their own constitutions with three branches of government, similar to the federal model.

Today, the original copy of the Constitution resides in the National Archives Museum in Washington, D.C. You can visit it as a tourist. You can also visit Independence Hall in Philadelphia, which is now a part of the Independence National Historical Park.

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