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#217: Nixon's the One

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President Richard M. Nixon at his desk in the White House a few weeks after his inauguration in 1969
President Richard M. Nixon at his desk in the White House a few weeks after his inauguration in 1969

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

This week in our series, we begin the story of America's thirty-seventh president.

RICHARD NIXON: "I, Richard Milhous Nixon, do solemnly swear..."

CHIEF JUSTICE EARL WARREN: "That you will faithfully execute the office..."

NIXON: "That I will faithfully execute the office..."

WARREN: "Of President of the United States."

NIXON: "Of President of the United States..."

Richard Nixon was sworn into office on January twentieth, nineteen sixty-nine.

(MUSIC)

Nixon began his presidency at a difficult time.

(Viet Nam War battle sounds)

American forces, allied with the Army of South Vietnam, were continuing to fight against the communist forces of North Vietnam. Thousands of soldiers and civilians were dying. The Americans and South Vietnamese were making little progress, and there were anti-war demonstrations in the United States.

Anti-War Protesters chanting: "Hell No, We Won't Go!"

Demonstrators outside Chicago's Blackstone Hotel, February 5, 1970, to protest the visit of President Richard Nixon
Demonstrators outside Chicago's Blackstone Hotel, February 5, 1970, to protest the visit of President Richard Nixon

There were also demonstrations against racial injustice. The issues that divided the nation also divided families and friends.

At the same time, fighting the war meant there was less government money available to fight social problems.

The last president, Lyndon Johnson, had proposed new legislation to help poor people and minorities. In some cases, Congress approved less money than he had requested. In other cases, lawmakers did not approve any money at all.

The new president seemed well prepared to deal with the difficulties of being president. He was known for his ability to fight, to lose, and to keep trying.

(MUSIC)

Richard Nixon was born in California. His family was poor. When he was about ten years old, he harvested vegetables to help earn money for his family. He earned the money that he needed to go to college. Then he decided to study law. He was among the top students in his class.

During World War Two, Nixon served in the Navy in the Pacific. When he came home, he ran for a seat in Congress and won.

As a member of the House of Representatives, Nixon became known for his part in the Alger Hiss case.

RICHARD NIXON:  "I am holding in my hand a microfilm of very highly confidential secret State Department documents. These documents were fed out of the State Department, over ten years ago, by communists who were employees of that department and who were interested in seeing if these documents were sent to the Soviet Union, where the interests of the Soviet Union happened to be in conflict with those of the United States."

(MUSIC)

Alger Hiss was a former official in the State Department. He had been accused of lying about helping provide secret information to the Soviet Union. He denied the accusations.

Nixon demanded a congressional investigation. Other members of the House thought the issue should be dropped. But Nixon succeeded and led the investigation.

Alger Hiss, shown in this August 25, 1948 photo testifying before the House Un-American Activities Committee in Washington
Alger Hiss, shown in this August 25, 1948 photo testifying before the House Un-American Activities Committee in Washington

While never convicted of espionage, Hiss was tried and found guilty of lying to a grand jury that investigated the case. He was sentenced to prison.

Some Americans disliked Richard Nixon for the way he treated people during the investigation. They felt that some of his attacks were unfair. At that time, fear of communism was very strong. Critics thought he was using the situation for his own gain, to improve his political future.

In nineteen fifty, Richard Nixon ran for the Senate. Nixon, a Republican, competed against Democrat Helen Gahagan Douglas, a former actress and three-time California Congresswoman.

During the often bitter campaign he accused her of not recognizing the threat of communism in America.

He also said that she was "pink, right down to her underwear," a reference to her being sympathetic to communism.

In response, Congresswoman Douglas gave Nixon a nickname he would never completely lose, "Tricky Dick."

Nixon won the election.

(MUSIC)

Two years later, in nineteen fifty-two, the Republican Party chose him as its candidate for vice president. The candidate for president was Dwight Eisenhower.

Eisenhower and Nixon easily defeated the Democratic Party candidates, Illinois Governor Adlai Stevenson and Alabama Senator John Sparkman.

They won again in nineteen fifty-six.

During his eight years as vice president, Nixon visited sixty countries. He faced violent protests during a visit to South America in nineteen fifty-eight. The following year, he visited the Soviet Union. He and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev had what became known as the "kitchen debate." It took place in Moscow as they visited a model of a kitchen that might be found in an American house.

RUSSIAN PREMIER NIKITA KHRUSHCHEV: [Speaking in Russian]

The debate was about world peace. Nixon at one point told Khrushchev that he did not know everything. But there were light moments as well.

SOUND: [Spirited and playful interchanges between Khrushchev and his interpreter, Nixon's interpreter, and Nixon, ending with...]

NIXON: "All that I can say from the way you talk, and the way you dominate the conversation, you would have made a good lawyer yourself."

In this November 14, 1960 photo, President-elect John F. Kennedy, left, and Vice President Richard Nixon in Miami, Florida
In this November 14, 1960 photo, President-elect John F. Kennedy, left, and Vice President Richard Nixon in Miami, Florida

In nineteen sixty, Nixon accepted the Republican nomination for president. He had many years of political experience and had gained recognition as vice president. Many people thought he would win the national election easily. But he lost to the young John Kennedy. It was the closest presidential election since eighteen eighty-four.

After losing to Kennedy, Nixon moved back to California. Then in nineteen sixty-two he tried to defeat Governor Edmund "Pat" Brown, a Democrat, and lost.

In conceding defeat, Nixon gave a "final" press conference, in which he told reporters:

NIXON: "For sixteen years, ever since the Hiss case, you've had a lot of fun. You've had an opportunity to attack me, and I think I've given as good as I've taken. I leave you gentlemen now, and you will now write it, you will interpret it, that's your right. But, as I leave you, I want you to know, just think how much you're going to be missing - you don't have Nixon to kick around anymore."

Nixon's political career seemed to be over. He moved to New York City and worked as a lawyer. But he made it clear that he was not ruling out a return to public life at some point in the future.

(MUSIC)

Many Republicans began to see Richard Nixon as the statesman they wanted in the White House. By then, President Johnson had decided not to run for re-election in nineteen sixty-eight. His Democratic Party was divided. The Republicans believed they had a good chance to win the election.

Nixon campaigned hard against the Democratic candidate, Hubert Humphrey. Humphrey was vice president under Johnson and had to defend the president's unpopular policies on the Vietnam War.

Some Americans thought the war should be expanded. Many others demanded an immediate withdrawal.

Both Humphrey and Nixon promised to work for peace in Vietnam.

(MUSIC)

On Election Day, voters chose Nixon. He narrowly won the popular vote but collected many more electoral votes than Humphrey.

On the day after his victory, Richard Nixon spoke to a gathering of supporters. He told them that "the great objective" of his administration, from the start, would be "to bring the American people together."

(MUSIC)

Once in office, President Nixon proposed legislation to deal with problems at home. He called his proposals the "New Federalism." One proposal was for revenue sharing. Under his plan, the federal government would share tax money with state and local governments. For three years, Congress objected. Then, in nineteen seventy-two, the revenue sharing plan was finally approved.

Lawmakers also approved legislation for some of Nixon's other ideas. One changed the way American men were drafted into military service for the war. The new law said young men would now have their names chosen in a lottery system. Many people had criticized the earlier system which they said chose too many poor people and racial minorities. These were the men who were fighting, and dying, in Vietnam.

Congress also approved a change to the Constitution to decrease the voting age from twenty-one to eighteen. Supporters of the amendment said if people were old enough to fight and die in war, then they were old enough to vote. The amendment became law when three-fourths of the states approved it in nineteen seventy-one.

On another issue, Nixon proposed to build a system to defend against missile attacks. He said it was needed to protect American missile bases. Congress approved the idea in nineteen sixty-nine. Critics said it would only intensify the arms race with the Soviet Union.

(MUSIC)

Nixon's first appointments to the nation's highest court also caused much debate. He named two conservative judges from the South, Clement Haynsworth and G. Harold Carswell. Lawmakers said Haynsworth had been unfair to blacks in his decisions and that Carswell was not prepared for the job. Congress rejected both nominations to the Supreme Court.

President Nixon faced these disappointments, and others. But he still had moments to celebrate during his first term. One came on July twentieth, nineteen sixty-nine. On that day, he and millions of people around the world watched as two American astronauts became the first humans to land on the moon.

AUDIO: Nixon on phone with astronauts on moon

NIXON: "Hello Neil and Buzz. I'm talking to you by telephone from the Oval Room at the White House. I just can't tell you how proud we all are. Because of what you have done, the heavens have become part of man's world. And, as you talk to us from the Sea of Tranquility, it inspires us to redouble our efforts to bring peace and tranquility to Earth."

(MUSIC)

We continue the story of Richard Nixon next week.

You can find our series online with transcripts, MP3s, podcasts and pictures at www.unsv.com. You can also 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.

___

This was program #217.

尼克松1969年1月20日宣誓就职,当时的美国真正处于一个艰难时期。美国跟南越部队一起,继续跟北越的共产武装作战,成千上万的士兵和民众在战争中丧生,美国的反战抗议示威风起云涌。

此时,美国国内也出现了反对种族歧视的抗议活动。这些棘手的问题不仅让整个国家,也让家庭和朋友之间出现了严重的意见分歧。

打仗要花钱,战争的继续就意味着政府能够用于解决社会问题的资金减少。上届总统约翰逊提出了一些帮助穷人和少数族裔的议案,有些议案得到了国会的批准,但是拨款数额低于索取数额,另外一些议案则索性一分钱也没有拿到。

新总统尼克松为解决这些难题做好了充分准备。他向来以坚持不懈的斗志而著称。

尼克松生于加利福尼亚,家境贫寒,十岁大就去收割蔬菜,贴补家用,他自己供自己上了大学,大学毕业后就读法学院,成绩在班里名列前茅。

第二次世界大战期间,尼克松加入海军,在太平洋服役,服役结束后,参选国会众议员,进入国会,担任国会议员期间尼克松,因为主持对前国务院官员希斯的调查而知名。他曾说过下面这段话:"我手里拿着的这张微型胶片,上面有国务院的机密文件,这些机密文件是十多年前由国务院里的共产党人传出来的,涉及的都是一些苏联跟美国有利益冲突的问题,他们想让苏联得到这些文件"。

希斯是前美国国务院官员。他被指控向苏联透露机密信息,希斯矢口否认。尼克松要求国会就此展开调查,国会其他众议员觉得应该放手此事,但是尼克松最终胜利了,并亲自主持调查。希斯没有因为间谍罪而受到正式起诉,但是法庭认定,希斯向大陪审团做伪证的罪名成立,将希斯投入监狱。

尼克松在调查过程中的一些做法,让一些美国人很反感。他们觉得他发起的攻击不够公正。那个时候,对共产主义的恐慌情绪十分强烈。批评人士认为,尼克松是在利用这种情绪,为自己的政治前途赚取资本。

1950年,尼克松参选国会参议员,对手是加州的民主党三任议员,以前是演员的海伦.道格拉斯。在激烈竞选期间,尼克松指责道格拉斯参议员对美国国内的共产主义威胁置若罔闻。他还说,道格拉斯参议员从里到外都是"粉红色的,直到她的内裤",暗示她对共产主义持有同情之心。

道格拉斯参议员反戈一击,给尼克松起了个外号,叫"tricky dick"狡猾的迪克,结果这个外号一直跟着尼克松。但是最后,尼克松还是胜选了。

两年过后的1952年,尼克松被共和党选中,做为副总统候选人,跟艾森豪威尔一起参选。艾森豪威尔和尼克松轻松击败了民主党候选人伊利诺伊州州长史蒂文森和阿拉巴马州参议员斯巴克曼。

艾森豪威尔和尼克松1956年当选连任。尼克松担任副总统的八年间,先后出访60个国家。1958年访问南美洲时遇到暴力抗议示威。1959年,尼克松又出访苏联,跟苏联总理赫鲁晓夫,展开了后来广为人知的所谓"厨房辩论"。当时,尼克松在莫斯科参观一个可能在美国家庭里看到的厨房样品间。

辩论核心是世界和平。在辩论中,尼克松一度指责赫鲁晓夫什么也不懂,但期间也不乏轻松时刻,尼克松就曾开玩笑说:"我想说,按你说话的方式,从你交谈中的咄咄逼人看,你本来会是个好律师。"

1960年尼克松接受共和党的总统提名。他从政经验丰富,担任副总统期间,也极大增加了知名度。很多人觉得他当选总统易如反掌,没想到尼克松却输给了年轻的约翰.肯尼迪。1960年总统选举是美国1884年大选以来结果最接近的一次选举。

输给肯尼迪后,尼克松搬回加州,1962年试图参加州长竞选,结果败给了在任民主党州长布朗。在承认失败的"最后"新闻发布会上,尼克松说:"希斯案件以来这16年来,大家挺开心,你们有机会攻击我,我也全力予以还击。我现在要跟大家告别,你们现在可以写,可以诠释,这是你们的权利,但我希望你们知道,你们一定会特别想念我,因为你们再也没有尼克松可以肆意批评了。"

尼克松的政治生涯似乎终结了,他搬到纽约市当律师。但是他也明确表示,不排除日后可能再次进入公众的视线。

很多共和党人觉得尼克松是入主白宫的最佳人选。那时候,约翰逊总统已经决定不参加1968年的大选,民主党党内严重分裂,共和党人相信,这是他们夺回白宫的大好时机。

尼克松积极参选,他的对手是当时的副总统休伯特.汉弗莱。汉弗莱做为副总统,势必要为约翰逊总统的越战政策提出辩护。当时,一些美国人认为应该扩大战事,另外一些美国人则要求立即撤军。尼克松和汉弗莱都保证要为越南的和平而努力。

最后,美国人民选择了尼克松。尼克松的选票没有赢很多,但是选举人票大大超过了汉弗莱。胜选当天,尼克松在对支持者发表讲话时说,"他这届政府的首要目的是将美国人民团结在一起。"

走马上任后,尼克松总统提出议案,解决国内问题,并将这一系列议案称为"新联邦主义"。其中一项提案是分享国库收入,按照他的计划,联邦政府要跟州政府和地方政府分享税收,这项提案连续三年遭到国会抵制,直到1972年才通过。

国会议员还通过了尼克松提出的另外一些提案,其中一项涉及美国战时征兵。很多人批评说,根据以前的系统挑选出来的都是穷人和少数族裔,让这些人到越南去打仗,去送死,根据新法,美国年轻男子战时征兵要按照抽彩的方式来进行。

国会还通过了一项宪法修正案,将法定投票年龄从21岁改为18岁。这项修正案的支持者认为,如果18岁能打战,能为国捐躯的话,就应该能够投票。该修正案得到四分之三州的批准,1971年成为法律。

此外,尼克松还提议修建一个防御导弹袭击的系统。他认为,这样做有助于保护美国的导弹基地。国会1969年通过了这项立法,但是批评人士说,这样做只会加剧美苏之间的军备竞赛。

尼克松第一次任命联邦最高法院大法官也引起了极大争议。他提名了两位来自南方的保守派大法官,一个是海恩斯沃思,另一个是卡斯韦尔。国会议员说,海恩斯沃思做出了很多对黑人极不公平的裁决,而卡斯韦尔无法胜任联邦最高法院大法官一职,这两个人的提名都遭到了国会的驳回。

虽然有不尽人意之处,但尼克松第一个任期也有很多值得庆贺的成就,其中一个是1969年7月20号,两名美国宇航员成功登上月球,开创了人类的历史先河。尼克松当时打电话向这两位宇航员表示祝贺。

他说,"尼尔,布兹,你们好,我从白宫椭圆形办公室里打电话给你们。我无法表达骄傲的心情。因为你们,天空成了人类世界的一部分。你们从宁静海传来的声音,鼓舞我们加倍努力,让和平和静谧遍布地球。"

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