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

Before we begin, did you know that you can buy Slow American English workbooks? Each workbook contains the Exercise Worksheets, answer keys, Bonus Material and transcripts from each podcast episode. There are three workbooks so far. Each contains a year’s worth of podcast episodes. Volume 1 has episodes 1 – 12, Volume 2, episodes 13 – 24, and Volume 3, episodes 25 – 36. You can buy all the workbooks on Amazon. The link is on the podcast website at www.slowamericanenglish.net.

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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.

Theme music for this podcast is written and performed by SW Campbell and used by permission. Find more music by this artist at www.Soundclick.com/swcampbell.

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

Episode 36: President John F. Kennedy

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

This is episode number 36: President John F. Kennedy

This podcast deals with President John F. Kennedy, the 35th US president.

But, before we get started, please visit the podcast website at www.SlowAmericanEnglish.net. There you can subscribe to the podcast and get free transcripts, too.

To support this podcast, please visit patreon.com/slowamericanenglish and become a patron. Regular contributors get access to Exercise Worksheets and Natural-Speed Recordings. You can also make a one-time contribution at www.slowamericanenglish.net.

And, as always, you can contact me directly via email at info@slowamericanenglish.net. Now for the podcast:



John Fitzgerald Kennedy, or JFK, was the 35th president of the United States, and he was elected in 1960. He was the youngest president to ever be elected to the office, and the first Roman Catholic as well. It is safe to say that JFK is still one of America’s most beloved presidents.

Known to his family and friends as Jack, JFK was born into a wealthy, politically powerful family in the Boston, Massachusetts, area. JFK was born in 1917, the second of nine children. His older brother, Joe, had a life goal of being the first Roman Catholic president.

However, during WWII, when Joe and Jack were both in the military, Joe was killed. Jack had become a hero during the war when the ship he was commanding, PT-109, was hit by a Japanese destroyer. JFK managed to lead the 11 survivors to rescue.

Because of Joe’s death, Jack reconsidered his career goal and changed it from becoming a teacher or writer to becoming president. In 1946, JFK, a Democrat, was elected to the US House of Representatives and served six years. Then, in 1952, he was elected to the Senate.

In 1960, he was elected president. When he took office in 1961, he delivered his inaugural speech that contained the famous line, “And so, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.”

When JFK moved into the White House, he was married with two young children. His wife, Jacqueline, or Jackie, set about restoring all the rooms to reflect American history and artistic creativity. She even created a kindergarten for Caroline, the oldest child. Jackie Kennedy was very popular and famous for her style and sophistication. The Kennedy White House was famous for its youthful spirit and activities. In fact, many people referred to the Kennedys’ time in the White House as Camelot, a reference to the mythical King Arthur legend.

Less than three years after JFK became president, he was assassinated on November 22, 1963, in Dallas, Texas. The world was in total shock. The killer, Lee Harvey Oswald, was himself killed by Jack Ruby two days later. The reason for the assassination has never been fully explained, leading to many conspiracy theories which are still discussed today.

JFK accomplished a lot in the few years he was in office. At the time, there was a struggle between the US democratic system of government and the Soviet Union’s communistic system. This is known as the Cold War because there was no shooting in this conflict. However, since the Soviets were propagating communism in eastern Europe after WWII and building up their nuclear weapons, JFK authorized sending military forces to Europe and building up US nuclear weapons as a safeguard against attack. Each side continued to build up weapons, and this became known as the arms race.

Another big event in the Cold War for JFK was the Cuban Missile Crisis. Cuba had become allies with the Soviets and installed missiles there, only 90 miles from Florida. JFK threatened to invade Cuba if the missiles were not removed. There was a 13-day standoff between the USA and the Soviet Union, and then the missiles were removed on the condition that the US would not invade Cuba. This explains why Cuban – US political relations were so bad until just recently.

Not all of Kennedy’s actions involved the military. He started the Peace Corps early in his administration. And, largely because the Soviets were the first to launch a man into Earth orbit in 1961, JFK promised that the USA would put a man on the moon before the Soviets. That happened in 1969, six years after his death.

Racism was an even bigger issue in the early 1960s in America than it is today. Civil rights leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr., asked JFK to openly support civil rights. In the beginning he was reluctant for many political reasons, but by June 1963 he proposed a new Civil Rights bill to Congress and gave a televised speech asking for support of it. The bill passed in 1964, the year after he died.

JFK is still admired for his politics, his eloquence and his style. There have been many books and films about him and his legacy. You can find mountains of information online or visit the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston to see exhibits and documents from his life and presidency.


That’s the podcast for this time. Slow American English is written and produced by Karren Tolliver. Copyright 2017. All rights reserved.

For a free transcript and to subscribe to the podcast, visit www.SlowAmericanEnglish.net. You can also subscribe via iTunes, Google Play Music, and any other podcast feed reader.

Theme music for this podcast is written and performed by SW Campbell and used by permission. Find more music by this artist at www.Soundclick.com/swcampbell.

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

Episode 23 (formerly 1611): President Barack Obama


You may know that Barack Obama is the 44th president of the United States. He is America’s first African-American president. He served two terms, or eight years, and accomplished many things in his political career.

However, you may not know much about his life before the presidency. Today I will give you some facts. His full name is Barack Hussein Obama II, and he was born on August 4, 1961, in Hawaii. His mother was white and from Kansas. His father was black and from Kenya. They met while attending the University of Hawaii.

Barack’s father left the family when he was two years old. The father attended Harvard in Massachusetts then returned to Kenya. In 1971, Barack saw his father only one more time in his life. Barack Sr. died in Kenya in 1982.

Barack’s mother’s second husband was a man from Indonesia. Therefore, Barack lived in Indonesia from age six through ten. While there he attended a Catholic school and a Muslim school. He claims that he benefited from such a cultural multiplicity during his childhood: Hawaiian, Indonesian, white, black, Catholic, Muslim. While growing up, Barack often struggled with his identity as a black man in America because he had no strong black male role models.

Obama’s mother sent him to live with her parents in Hawaii when he was ten years old. He attended the prestigious Punahou School from fifth grade through the end of high school. His grades were good and he played for the varsity basketball team.

Barack went to college in Los Angeles for two years, then switched to Columbia University in New York City. He graduated in 1983 with a bachelor’s in political science. He took a job as a researcher for a global business-consulting firm in New York for a year after graduation.

After that, he moved to the South Side of Chicago, an area well known for its mostly poor, black population. His job there was a community organizer. Here, Obama became part of the African-American community he had been missing throughout his life. He worked with local churches and the people in general to improve the community through public service work and politics.

Because of this work, he realized he could get more things done if he were a lawyer. So, in 1988 he went to Harvard Law School and became an outstanding student. He was elected president of the prestigious Harvard Law Review from 1990-91, the first African-American to hold that position. He graduated magna cum laude in 1991.

During a summer internship in Chicago after his first year at Harvard, he met Michelle Robinson, herself a Harvard Law School graduate. They dated for the next four years and married in 1992. She is now our First Lady, Michelle Obama. They settled in Chicago and had two daughters: Malia, born in 1998, and Sasha, born in 2001.

While in Chicago, Barack Obama published his first book, Dreams from My Father in 1995. He directed a voter-registration drive to increase black voter turnout in the 1992 election. Then he had a job as a civil rights lawyer and as a teacher at a law school.

His first political campaign was in 1996, after which he became an Illinois state senator. He was very successful in passing laws regarding finance reform and crime legislation. In 2000 he ran for US Representative but lost. He returned to the state senate and then helped pass laws benefiting children, seniors, workers and poor people.

In 2004 Obama ran for US Senate and won. He published his second book, The Audacity of Hope, in 2006, which became a national bestseller. And, as you know, he ran for president in 2008 and won. He took office in January of 2009; he was reelected for a second term in 2012.

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