Geena Davis Is Not Really a President, but She Plays One on TV



HOST: Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC, in VOA Special English.

I'm Doug Johnson. On our show this week:

We hear some music from Madonna's latest album …

Answer a question about how we answer questions …

And report about a popular new television show.

'Commander in Chief'

Chile and Liberia are welcoming newly elected female presidents. Will a woman ever become president of the United States? It seems the closest the United States has come to a female leader is on television. Faith Lapidus tells us about that show, "Commander In Chief".

FAITH LAPIDUS: "Commander in Chief" is a television show about the United States' first woman president, Mackenzie Allen. She is a forty-five-year-old former college professor.

When the show began in September, Vice President Allen took the highest office after the president died. The former president's supporters wanted her to resign so the Speaker of the House of Representatives would become president. She refused.

Geena Davis plays President Allen. Donald Sutherland is the Speaker of the House, Nathan Templeton. In this scene from the television show, she tells him what she is going to do:

PRESIDENT ALLEN: "I'm going to go out there and I'm going to take the oath of office. I'm going to run this government. And if some Islamic nations can't tolerate a female president then I promise you it will be more their problem than mine."

SPEAKER TEMPLETON: "Why? Why do you want to be president?

"For the same reason that Teddy Bridges did. Because I believe the people of America deserve to have a president ... "

"No no. In this room where it's just you and me, just the two of us, the answer that you should be giving me is that you want to be president because you want the power. You want the power to control the universe."

"That's not me."

"Well, that's the problem!"

President Allen's family has faced problems because of their new situation. Living in the White House changed the lives of her children. Her husband had to decide if he would work in or out of her administration. And her mother came to live at the White House.

The new president also has had to deal with dangerous international problems. One story was about the danger of a nuclear war. Another told about important negotiations with Russia.

And President Allen has political problems. She knows the Speaker of the House still wants to be president and is not her political ally.

"Commander in Chief" has been one of the most popular new shows on American television this year. Last week, Geena Davis won a Golden Globe Award from the Hollywood Foreign Press Association as best leading actress in a television drama. It looks like Mackenzie Allen will continue to serve as America's first female president for a few more years at least.


HOST: Our VOA listener question this week comes from Iran. Moninre Farhangnia asks where Special English writers find answers to listeners' questions.

We often use an Internet search engine to find a Web site that will provide information. For example, we answered a question about the Pepsi Cola company. Its Web site provided information about the history of the company. We also found articles in newspapers and magazines. We confirm information with second and third sources to make sure the information is correct. Sometimes we also use an encyclopedia, a set of books containing information on almost any subject. Encyclopedias are written by experts and have been a trusted source of information for years.

Now there is also a free online encyclopedia called Wikipedia. It is written by people around the world. Anyone can edit or add to an article. But this has caused problems.

Last year, a former editor of the paper USA Today discovered wrong information about him on Wikipedia. Someone had written an article that falsely linked him to a political assassination. This wrong information was quickly corrected.

Later, the publication Nature studied Wikipedia and a well-known printed encyclopedia, Britannica, to see which had more mistakes. It found an average of four mistakes in a Wikipedia article, and three in an article in Britannica's. Wikipedia supporters note that they are able to correct information when they find a mistake. Written publications are not able to do this.

Wikipedia started in two thousand one. The word "wiki" comes from "wiki wiki" which means "quickly" in the Hawaiian language. Reports say it is the largest single source of information in history. It is also one of the fastest growing sites on the Internet.

It offers more than three million articles in more than two hundred languages. Each month, it records more than two thousand million page visits. Jimmy Wales helped start Wikipedia. He says its purpose is to provide all people with a free encyclopedia written in their native language. You can find information on just about every subject on Wikipedia, even about Special English. However, some experts warn people not to believe everything they read online, no matter where they read it.


Popular singer Madonna has been making records for more than twenty years. She recently released a new album, "Confessions on a Dance Floor." The songs represent a new kind of nineteen seventies disco music. Pat Bodnar tells us more.


PAT BODNAR: That was "Hung Up," the international hit song from Madonna's new album. "Hung Up" and the other songs on the album are considered "retro." Retro is a word used to describe an earlier kind of music that is re-made in a new way. Madonna combines dance music of the nineteen seventies with a new modern beat.

All the songs on Madonna's new album are continuous. The beat of one song develops into the beat of the next song. This means you never have to stop dancing.

Religious leaders in Israel have criticized one song on the album called "Isaac." They said it was wrong to use the name of a sixteenth century spiritual leader in a song meant to earn money. Madonna has defended the song. She said it is called "Isaac" because that is the name of the man who sings it with her. If you listen carefully, you can hear the voice of Isaac Sinwani singing in Hebrew. This song also expresses some of Madonna's own interest in spirituality.


Music critics say that this is one of Madonna's best albums in years. They say it represents what Madonna does best-- getting people onto the dance floor.

We leave you now with the song "Like it or Not". In this song, Madonna says that she will keep on going, no matter what people think of her.


HOST: I'm Doug Johnson. I hope you enjoyed our program today.This show was written by Nancy Steinbach and Dana Demange, who was also our producer. Join us again next week for AMERICAN MOSAIC, VOA's radio magazine in Special English.