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#180: An Angry Nation Puts Its Hopes in President Roosevelt

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Herbert Hoover, left, and Franklin Roosevelt in Washington on Inauguration Day
Herbert Hoover, left, and Franklin Roosevelt in Washington on Inauguration Day

STEVE EMBER: Welcome to THE MAKING OF A NATION - American history in VOA Special English. I'm Steve Ember with Shirley Griffith. This week in our series, we begin the story of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

(MUSIC)

In nineteen thirty-two Americans were tired of the policies of Republican President Herbert Hoover. They thought Hoover had done too little to fight the depression that was crushing the economy.

They gave a big victory to Franklin Roosevelt and his Democrats in the elections that year. Roosevelt believed that the federal government should do more to help average Americans.

The election brought hope to many Americans in the autumn of nineteen thirty-two. But Roosevelt did not become president until March of nineteen thirty-three, four months after the election. And those months saw the American economy fall to its lowest level in the history of the nation.

SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: President Hoover tried to arrange a world economic conference. And he called on President-elect Roosevelt to join him in making conservative statements in support of business.

Roosevelt refused. He did not think it was correct to begin acting like a president until he actually became the president. He did not want to tie himself to policies that the voters had just rejected.

Congress, controlled by Democrats, also refused to help Hoover.

STEVE EMBER: It was a strange period, a season of uncertainty and anger. The economy was worse than ever. The lines of people waiting for food were longer than before. Angry mobs of farmers were gathering in the countryside. And the politicians in Washington seemed unable to work together to end the crisis.

Hoover said, We are at the end of our rope. There is nothing more we can do. And across the country, Americans waited -- worried, uncertain, afraid. What would the new president do?

SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: The new president was fifty-one years old. His family name was well-known to the American public. Theodore Roosevelt -- a distant family member -- had served as one of America's greatest presidents thirty years earlier.

Franklin Roosevelt was born to a rich and important New York family. He went to the best schools: Groton, Harvard and Columbia Law School. In nineteen ten, he won election to the New York State Legislature. He showed great intelligence and political understanding as a state senator, and worked hard for other Democratic candidates.

Franklin Roosevelt next served as assistant secretary of the Navy under President Woodrow Wilson. And in nineteen twenty, he was the Democratic Party's unsuccessful candidate for vice president.

STEVE EMBER: The next year, Roosevelt suffered a personal tragedy. He was sailing during a holiday with his family. Suddenly, his body became cold. He felt severe pain in his back and legs. Doctors came. But the pain got worse. For weeks, Roosevelt was forced to lie on his back.

Finally, doctors discovered that Roosevelt was a victim of polio. He lost control of his legs because of the disease. He would never walk again.

Roosevelt had always been an active man who loved sports. But now he would have to live with a wheelchair. All of his money and fame could not get him back the strength in his legs.

President Roosevelt in 1933
President Roosevelt in 1933

SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: Many Americans thought the illness would end Roosevelt's political dreams. But they were wrong. He showed an inner strength that people had never seen in him before.

Roosevelt ran as the Democratic candidate for governor of New York state in nineteen twenty-eight. He won by a small number of votes.

Two years later, the voters of New York re-elected Roosevelt. And they cheered his creative efforts to help citizens of the state who were suffering from the Great Depression.

(MUSIC)

STEVE EMBER: Franklin Roosevelt always appeared strong and friendly in public. He loved to laugh and enjoy life. But his happy face hid a strong will.

Throughout his life, Roosevelt worked to improve life for the common man. And he was willing to use the power of government to do this. He thought the government had the power and responsibility to improve the life of its citizens.

SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: Roosevelt believed deeply in this. But he was less certain about the best way to do it. "Above all, we must try something," he said during the presidential campaign of nineteen thirty-two. Roosevelt believed that the country demanded creative experimentation.

Americans in large numbers across the country voted for Roosevelt in nineteen thirty-two. They supported his calls for action to end the depression. But no one was really sure just what this new president from New York -- this man unable to walk -- would really do after he entered the White House.

President Roosevelt's inauguration ceremony in Washington
President Roosevelt's inauguration ceremony in Washington

STEVE EMBER: Inauguration Day in nineteen thirty-three began with clouds and a dark sky. Roosevelt went to church in the morning. And then he drove with President Hoover from the White House to the Capitol, the building where Congress meets.

Roosevelt tried to talk with Hoover as they drove. But Hoover said little. He just waved without emotion at the crowd.

The two men arrived at the Capitol. A huge crowd of people waited. Millions more Americans listened to a radio broadcast of the ceremony. The chief justice of the United States, Charles Evans Hughes, gave the oath of office to Roosevelt.

And then Americans waited to hear what the nation's thirty-second president would say.

He told them he was sure they expected him to speak openly and honestly about the situation facing the country. He told them that their great nation would survive as it had survived in the past. That it would recover and become rich again.

He talked about the danger of fear -- a nameless fear that blocked efforts to move forward. And he talked about Americans giving their support to honest, active leadership in every dark hour of their history.

Here is some of Roosevelt's inaugural address in his own words.

PRESIDENT ROOSEVELT: "This great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself--nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance."

SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: Roosevelt's words caught the emotions of the crowd. He seemed sure of himself. He promised leadership. His whole style was different from the empty promises of wealth offered by President Hoover.

PRESIDENT ROOSEVELT: "Happiness lies not in the mere possession of money; it lies in the joy of achievement, in the thrill of creative effort. The joy and moral stimulation of work no longer must be forgotten in the mad chase of evanescent profits. These dark days my friends will be worth all they cost us if they teach us that our true destiny is not to be ministered unto but to minister to ourselves, to our fellow men."

SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: Roosevelt said that the most important need was to put people back to work. And he said the federal government would have to take an active part in creating jobs.

Roosevelt said there were many ways to help the nation recover. But he said it would never be helped just by talking about it. "We must act," he said, "and act quickly."

STEVE EMBER: Roosevelt had a strong and serious look on his face. He told the crowd that all the necessary action was possible under the American system of government. But he warned that Congress must cooperate with him to get the nation moving again.

Then, his speech finished, Roosevelt waved to the crowd and smiled. Herbert Hoover shook his hand and left. Roosevelt rode alone through the huge crowds back to the White House. And he immediately began a series of conferences.

SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: Roosevelt's inauguration speech of nineteen thirty-three was one of the most powerful and important speeches in American history. Roosevelt's speech was like an ocean wave that washes away one period of history and brings in a new one. The president seemed strong. He gave people hope.

The new president promised the American people action. And action came quickly. During the next three months, Roosevelt and the Democrats would pass more major new programs than the nation had seen in many years.

We look at this beginning of the Roosevelt administration in our next program.

(MUSIC)

STEVE EMBER: Our program was written by David Jarmul. With Shirley Griffith, I'm Steve Ember. You can find our series online with pictures, transcripts, MP3s and podcasts at www.unsv.com. You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter at VOA Learning English. Join us again next week for THE MAKING OF A NATION -- an American history series in VOA Special English.

___

This is program #180

1932年,美国人厌倦了共和党总统胡佛的政策,他们认为胡佛在导致经济崩溃的大萧条中无所作为。这一年,选民在总统大选中将巨大的胜利送给了富兰克林.罗斯福和民主党。

罗斯福认为联邦政府在帮助普通民众方面应该承担更多的责任。1932年秋天的选举给许多美国人带来了希望。但罗斯福在大选结束的四个月后,也就是要等到1933年3月才能宣誓就职。在这几个月中,美国经济进一步恶化,到有史以来的最坏水平。

胡佛总统试图召开世界经济会议,邀请当选总统罗斯福与他一起发表支持企业发展的保守声明。罗斯福表示拒绝,他认为在他正式成为总统之前不应参与总统事务,而且他也不想把自己与选民已经明确表示反对的政策联系在一起。同样,受民主党控制的国会也拒绝帮助胡佛。

这是一个充满动荡、群情激忿的时期。经济走入低谷,领取食品的队越排越长,乡村里随处可见愤怒的暴民,而华盛顿的政客们却又不能共同努力,设法摆脱危机。胡佛说,我们已经束手无策,无技可施了。与此同时,全国人民都在等待,他们对新总统将会做些什么充满着担心、不确定和恐惧。

新总统罗斯福51岁,出身名门。三十年前美国历史上最伟大的总统之一西奥多.罗斯福,就是他的远亲。富兰克林.罗斯福出生于这样一个富裕而又名声显赫的纽约家庭,毕业于最好的学校:格罗顿、哈佛和哥伦比亚大学法学院。

1910年,他成功当选纽约州议员。他向人们展现了非凡的才能和政治理解力,并为其他民主党候选人的竞选积极努力。富兰克林.罗斯福曾在伍德罗.威尔逊总统任期内担任海军部长助理,1920年成为民主党副总统候选人并落选。

一年后罗斯福遭受重大不幸。他与家人外出度假航行时,突然身体变得冰冷,后背和双腿异常痛疼,而且越来越严重。几星期里,罗斯福一直被迫卧床。最后,医生诊断罗斯福得了脊髓灰质炎,他的双腿失去知觉,再也无法行走了。罗斯福原本是个非常喜爱运动的人,但现在他不得不坐在轮椅上。所有的金钱和声名都无法让他再次站立起来。

许多美国人认为,罗斯福的病痛将终结他的政治梦想,但他们错了。罗斯福向人们展现出他非凡的内在力量。1928年罗斯福作为民主党纽约州州长候选人积极参选,他以微弱多数赢得了这次竞选。两年后,罗斯福当选连任,选民们为他在大萧条时期帮助民众的创造性努力而欢呼。

富兰克林.罗斯福在公众面前总是那样的强壮和友善,他喜欢说笑,喜欢享受生活。他乐观的外表下蕴涵着坚强的意志。纵观他的一生,罗斯福一直为改善普通人的生活而努力,他愿意利用政府的力量来做到这一点。他认为政府有能力并且有责任提高民众的生活水平。

对此,罗斯福深信不疑,但对如何更好地做到这一点,并不十分确定。在1932年的总统大选期间,他曾经这样说过:最重要的是,我们必须尝试着去做些什么。罗斯福相信,全国民众都要求他进行创造性的改革。

在1932年的大选中,绝大多数选民都把票投给了罗斯福,支持他所提倡的为结束大萧条而行动起来的呼吁,但没有人能真正肯定,这位来自纽约州的,不能走路的新总统,在入主白宫后会做些什么。

1933年总统宣誓就职那天,天气多雾,天空阴暗。一大早,罗斯福前往教堂,然后与胡佛总统一起离开白宫前往国会。在途中,罗斯福试图与胡佛总统交谈,但胡佛沉默寡言,只是毫无表情地向围观的民众挥手致意。

聚集在国会的大量民众等候他们的到来。数百万美国人也守候在收音机旁收听典礼。美国首席大法官查尔斯.埃文斯.休斯主持了罗斯福总统的就职典礼。然后美国人民静静等待,想听听这位美国第32任总统会说些什么。

罗斯福对全国人民说,他坚信人民期望他坦诚布公地讲述美国当前所面临的形势。他说,他们伟大的国家一定能像过去一样经受住苦难, 并将再次繁荣。他谈到,真正的危险是恐惧,那种阻碍人们努力向前的难以名状的恐惧。他还谈到,在美国历史上每一个黑暗的时期,人们都赋予领导层有力的支持。

罗斯福总统说:我们伟大的祖国将战胜磨难,经受考验,终将恢复,再次繁荣。所以首先,请允许我坚定我的信念:我们唯一该恐惧的是恐惧本身,是那种难以名状的、盲目的、毫无根据的恐惧,这种恐惧阻碍了我们前进的努力。

罗斯福的话在现场观众中引起了共鸣。罗斯福充满自信,他答应领导全国人民渡过难关。他的风格与满是空洞许诺的胡佛大相径庭。

罗斯福总统说:幸福并非建立在对金钱的拥有上,而是源于取得成就的喜悦和创造所带来的激动。切莫在疯狂追逐瞬间即逝的利润时忘记工作所带来的喜悦和激动。在这些阴暗的日子里,我的同胞们所付出的代价是值得的。如果这些时日能够让我们认识到,我们不该听从任命运的摆布,而应该让命运为我们自己,为我们的同胞服务。

罗斯福说,当前最重要的是让帮助民众就业,他还说,联邦政府应当在创造就业中扮演重要角色。罗斯福还说,让国家从大萧条中恢复过来有许多办法,但如果仅仅停留在口头上则将于事无补。我们必须行动起来,他说,而且是立即行动起来。

罗斯福讲话时神情坚定、严肃。他对在场民众说,将在联邦政府体制内采取所有必要措施。但他也警告说,国会必须与他合作,使国家能再次回到发展的轨道上来。

演说结束后,罗斯福面带微笑向人群挥手致意。胡佛与他握手后离开。罗斯福穿过人群回到白宫,立即召开一系列会议。1933年罗斯福的就职演说是美国历史上最为重要、最有影响的就职演说之一。罗斯福的演说就像是海浪一样,冲走了一段历史,迎来了一个新时代。

罗斯福坚定有力,给人民带来了希望。罗斯福向人民承诺要采取行动,并立即付诸行动。在此后的三个月里,罗斯福和他的民主党所通过的新项目比以前数年通过的项目还要多。

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