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#210: Kennedy Becomes President

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President John F. Kennedy gives his inaugural address at the Capitol building
President John F. Kennedy gives his inaugural address at the Capitol building

STEVE EMBER: Welcome to THE MAKING OF A NATION - American history in VOA Special English. I'm Steve Ember

(MUSIC)

We begin this week's story on January twentieth, nineteen sixty-one, the day John Fitzgerald Kennedy became president of the United States.

It had snowed heavily the night before. Few cars were in the streets of Washington.

The outgoing president, Dwight Eisenhower, was seventy years old. John Kennedy was just forty-three. He was the first American president born in the twentieth century.

Both Eisenhower and Kennedy served in World War Two. Eisenhower had been commander of allied forces in Europe. Kennedy had been a young Navy officer in the Pacific.

He came from a politically influential family from Boston, Massachusetts, but he was a fresh face in national politics. To millions of Americans, he represented a chance for a new beginning.

(MUSIC)

Not everyone liked him, however. Many people thought he was too young to be president. Others did not like the idea of electing the nation's first Roman Catholic president.

Eisenhower's vice president, Richard Nixon, ran against Kennedy in the election of nineteen sixty. Many people believed Nixon was a stronger opponent of communism than Kennedy.

The election of nineteen-sixty was one of the closest in American history. Kennedy defeated Nixon by fewer than one hundred twenty thousand votes. Now, on the steps of the Capitol building, he would be sworn-in as the nation's thirty-fifth president.

One of the speakers at the inauguration was the eighty-six-year-old poet Robert Frost. The wind was blowing the paper in his hands and the sun was shining off the snow on the ground and into his eyes. Kennedy stood to help him. But the famous poet was unable to read much of the poem he had written specially for the ceremony.

Instead, he began another one that he knew from memory. Here is a studio recording of Robert Frost reading his poem "The Gift Outright."

ROBERT FROST: The land was ours before we were the land's.

She was our land more than a hundred years

Before we were her people. She was ours

In Massachusetts, in Virginia,

But we were England's, still colonials,

Possessing what we still were unpossessed by,

Possessed by what we now no more possessed.

Something we were withholding made us weak

Until we found out that it was ourselves

We were withholding from our land of living,

And forthwith found salvation in surrender.

Such as we were we gave ourselves outright

(The deed of gift was many deeds of war)

To the land vaguely realizing westward,

But still unstoried, artless, unenhanced,

Such as she was, such as she would become.

Soon it was time for the new president to speak. He was not wearing a winter coat or a hat, unlike many of the people around him.

One of the issues that Kennedy talked about was the danger of what he called "the deadly atom." He was taking office during the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union. Both sides had atomic bombs. People worried that there could a World War Three that would end in nuclear destruction.

Kennedy said both sides should make serious proposals for the inspection and control of nuclear weapons. He said they should explore the good in science, instead of the terrors.

JOHN KENNEDY: "Together let us explore the stars, conquer the deserts, eradicate disease, tap the ocean depths, and encourage the arts and commerce ... Let both sides join in creating a new endeavor, not a new balance of power, but a new world of law, where the strong are just and the weak secure and the peace preserved."

Kennedy also spoke about a torch of leadership being passed to a new generation of Americans. He urged young people to take the torch and accept responsibility for the future. He also urged other countries to work with the United States to create a better world.

JOHN KENNEDY: "The energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this endeavor will light our country and all who serve it -- and the glow from that fire can truly light the world. And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you -- ask what you can do for your country. My fellow citizens of the world: Ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man."

John Kennedy was in office less than two weeks when the Soviet Union released two American airmen. The Soviets had shot down their spy plane over the Bering Sea. About sixty million people watched as Kennedy announced the airmen's release.

It was the first presidential news conference broadcast live on television in the United States. Kennedy welcomed the release as a step toward better relations with the Soviet Union.

The next month, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev made another move toward better relations. He sent Kennedy a message. The message said that disarmament would be a great joy for all people on earth.

A few weeks later, President Kennedy announced the creation of the Peace Corps. He had spoken about his idea during the election campaign. The Peace Corps would send thousands of Americans to developing countries to teach and provide technical assistance.

Soon after the Peace Corps was created, another program was announced. The purpose of the Alliance for Progress was to provide economic aid for ten years to nations in Latin America.

(MUSIC)

Another thing that Kennedy had talked about during the election campaign was the space program. He believed the United States should continue to explore outer space.

The Soviet Union had gotten there first. It launched the world's first satellite in nineteen fifty-seven. Then, in April nineteen sixty-one, the Soviet Union sent the first manned spacecraft into orbit around earth.

That same month, the new American president suffered a foreign policy failure. On April seventeenth, more than one thousand Cuban exiles landed on a beach in western Cuba. They had received training and equipment from the United States Central Intelligence Agency.

They were supposed to lead a revolution to overthrow the communist government of Fidel Castro. The place where they landed was Bahia de Cochinos -- the Bay of Pigs.

The invasion failed. Most of the exiles were killed or captured.

It was not Kennedy's idea to try to start a revolution in Cuba. Officials in the last administration of Dwight Eisenhower had planned it. However, most of Kennedy's advisers supported the idea. And he approved it.

In public, the president said he was responsible for the failure of the Bay of Pigs invasion. In private, he said "All my life I've known better than to depend on the experts. How could I have been so stupid."

What happened in Cuba damaged John Kennedy's popularity. His next months in office would be a struggle to regain the support of the people. That will be our story next week.

(MUSIC)

You can find our series online with transcripts, MP3s, podcasts, and pictures at www.unsv.com. And you can follow us on Facebook and Twitter at VOA Learning English. I'm Steve Ember, inviting you to join us again next week for THE MAKING OF A NATION -- American history in VOA Special English.

___

Contributing: Jeri Watson

This was program #210. For earlier programs, type "Making of a Nation" in quotation marks in the search box at the top of the page.

1961年1月20日,约翰.菲茨杰拉德.肯尼迪成为美国总统。肯尼迪就职前夜,华盛顿下了场大雪,街上几乎没有车辆。肯尼迪从艾森豪威尔手中接过总统之职,艾森豪威尔已经70岁了,而肯尼迪只有43岁。他是美国历史上第一位在20世纪出生的总统。今天我们就为您讲述肯尼迪的就职典礼。

艾森豪威尔和肯尼迪都参加过第二次世界大战,前者是联军在欧洲的总司令,后者则是太平洋战场上的一名年轻海军军官。肯尼迪来自麻萨诸塞州的波士顿,他的家族在政界呼风唤雨,地位显赫,不过他在全国政治舞台上还是个新面孔,对千百万美国人来说,肯尼迪代表着一个开始新生活的机会。

不过,并不是所有的美国人都喜欢他。许多人觉得,他年纪太轻,担不了总统的大任,还有人因为他是美国历史上第一位信奉天主教的总统而不喜欢他。在1960年的总统选举中,肯尼迪的对手是当时的副总统理查德.尼克松。许多人觉得,在对抗共产主义方面,尼克松比肯尼迪更强硬,更有力。

1960年大选是美国历史上竞争最为激烈的总统大选之一。肯尼迪以不到12万票的优势击败了尼克松。现在,他站在国会大楼外的台阶上,宣誓就任美国第35任总统。

86岁的诗人罗伯特.弗洛斯特是在就职典礼上致词的嘉宾之一。当时,冷风把他手里的发言稿吹得动个不停,阳光照在雪地上发出反光,刺眼得很,让他看不清楚字。肯尼迪走过去帮他,可弗洛斯特还是无法看清发言稿上他专门为就职典礼所写的诗。

于是,他凭着记忆朗诵了另外一首诗,"全心的奉献"。

诗中说:

国土属于我们,即使在我们拥有之前。

我们的国土属于我们已经有一百多年,

在我们尚未是她的子民之前,就属于我们

在麻萨诸塞州,在维吉尼亚州。

但是彼时我们是英国的属地,为其殖民,

我们仍然拥有许多尚未被宰制的东西

也尚未丧失今天我们已经沦丧的东西。

我们怯于奉献使我们变得积弱,

直到我们发现,其咎于我们自己

我们对于赖于生存的国土不愿奉献

却冀望马上在屈服中寻求救赎。

彼时虽然拥有不多,我们无无条件地奉献

(奉献的行为表现于男儿志在沙场)

对未知的西部蛮荒的土地开拓

即使未流传为故事,美谈或宣扬

尽管土地如斯,未来亦如斯

1961年,肯尼迪成为美国总统。就职典礼在一个雪后的寒冷冬日举行,和周围的许多嘉宾不同,肯尼迪没有穿大衣,也没戴帽子。在就职演说中,他谈到了"致命的原子"所带来的危险。这不难理解--肯尼迪是在美苏冷战期间当上总统的,这两个国家都有原子弹,人们担心会爆发第三次世界大战,并最终导致核毁灭。

肯尼迪说,美苏两国都应该认真地拿出办法,检查和控制核武器。他说,两国应该钻研如何用科学造福人民,而不是制造恐怖。他说:"让我们一起探索星球,征服沙漠,消灭疾病,开发海洋,鼓励艺术和商业的发展。让我们一起创造一个新的事业--这不是指一个新的权力平衡,而是一个新的法制世界,在那里,强国秉持正义,弱国享受安全,和平得以为继。"

肯尼迪还谈到领导的火炬传递到新一代美国人手中。他号召年轻人接过火炬,担起对未来的责任。他还敦促其他国家和美国一道共创一个更美好的世界。他说:"我们带到这项新事业中的活力和信仰将给美国和所有为国家做贡献的人带来光明,这颗火种的光辉将照耀全世界。所以,我的同胞们,不要问你的国家能为你做些什么,而要问问你自己能为这个国家做些什么。世界各国的人们,不要问美国能为你们做些什么,而要问问你我一道能为人类自由做些什么。"

肯尼迪当上总统不到两个星期,苏联就释放了两名美国飞行员。这两名飞行员驾驶的美国侦察机被苏联在白令海上空击落。在大约六百万美国人的注视下,肯尼迪总统宣布这两人获释。这是美国历史上第一次在电视上直播的总统新闻发布会,肯尼迪对飞行员的获释表示欢迎,说这为改善美苏关系迈进了一步。

此后的第二个月,苏联领导人赫鲁晓夫采取新的行动,进一步改善了美苏关系。他给肯尼迪发来了信,表示核裁军将是全世界人民都乐于见到的事。几个星期后,肯尼迪总统宣布建立和平队。他在竞选期间就曾提出建立和平队的设想。和平队把成千上万名美国人派到发展中国家,教当地人知识,并为他们提供技术援助。

和平队创立后不久,肯尼迪宣布启动另一个项目,叫"进步联盟", 宗旨是为拉美国家提供长达十年的经济援助。此外,肯尼迪在竞选时还谈到过另一个项目,就是航天计划。他认为,美国应该继续探索外层空间。在这方面,苏联已经抢先美国一步。1957年,苏联发射了第一颗人造卫星,1961年4月,苏联又首次把载人航天飞机送入了环绕地球的轨道。

就在同一个月,肯尼迪在外交政策上遭遇失败。4月17日,一千多名古巴流亡者在古巴西部的一个沙滩上登陆,他们此前接受了美国中央情报局的技术训练和装备支援。他们的目的是在古巴领导革命,推翻卡斯特罗领导的共产党政府。他们登陆的地方叫猪湾。然而,这次行动失败了,大部分流亡者被杀或被捕。

在古巴发动革命并不是肯尼迪的主意,而是艾森豪威尔政府官员策划的。不过,肯尼迪的大部分顾问都支持这个想法,肯尼迪本人也批准了这次行动。对外,肯尼迪表示自己要为猪湾行动的失败负责。但私下里,他说:"我一辈子都很聪明,知道不能依赖那些所谓的专家,可这次我怎么糊涂了。"这次事件伤害了肯尼迪的形象,让他支持率下降。他在接下来的几个月中将尽力重建人们对他的支持。

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