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Welcome to THIS IS AMERICA in VOA Special English. I'm Steve Ember.
And I'm Barbara Klein. This week our subject is the city, Chicago, Illinois.
Chicago is clearly proud of Barack Obama. Pictures of him are all over the city.
On January fourth, the president-elect left his house in Chicago to join his family in Washington and prepare to take office. He will be inaugurated as the forty-fourth president of the United States, and the first black president, on January twentieth.
Barack Obama moved to Chicago in nineteen eighty-five, two years after college. He took a job as a community organizer for a church-based group. He did that for three years before going to Harvard Law School. Later, he returned to Chicago and worked as a civil rights lawyer.
He served for eight years in the Illinois state Senate before voters elected him to the United States Senate in two thousand four.
He recalled his early Chicago days in a letter published when he resigned from the Senate after his election as president in November.
"More than two decades ago, I arrived in Illinois as a young man eager to do my part in building a better America. On the South Side of Chicago, I worked with families who had lost jobs and lost hope when the local steel plant closed. It wasn't easy, but we slowly rebuilt those neighborhoods one block at a time, and in the process I received the best education I ever had."
Barack Obama also met his wife in Chicago. Michelle Obama was born and raised on the South Side. After Harvard Law School she worked for a law firm in Chicago and for Mayor Richard M. Daley.
Most recently she was a vice president at the University of Chicago Hospitals. Her father was a pump operator for the city water department. He died in nineteen ninety-one.
In the presidential election, Barack Obama won eighty-five percent of the vote in Chicago -- compared to fifty-three percent nationally. Chicago is one of the strongest bases for his Democratic Party. The city has not had a Republican mayor since nineteen thirty-one.
Richard M. Daley is a powerful mayor whose father was also a powerful mayor. Richard J. Daley led Chicago -- ruled might be a better word -- for twenty-one years. He died in office in nineteen seventy-six.
The current Mayor Daley is now in his sixth term. He was first elected in nineteen eighty-nine to complete the term of Harold Washington, the city's first black mayor, who died in office.
("Dull Day (in Chicago)" / Betty Carter)
Chicago is one of four candidates to host the Summer Olympics in two thousand sixteen. Chicago is competing against Tokyo, Rio de Janeiro and Madrid. The International Olympic Committee will choose the host city this October.
Chicago has several major sports teams. Basketball fans, for example, have the Bulls. Football fans have the Bears. Hockey fans have the Blackhawks. Baseball fans have a choice: the Cubs or the White Sox.
But some people might say that the biggest sport of all in Chicago -- and Illinois -- is politics. Many Chicagoans are proud of the attention they are getting over Barack Obama. But they are not so proud of another hometown newsmaker.
Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich was arrested at his Chicago home on December ninth. Federal officials have charged him with corruption. Among other things, they say he sought to profit from his duty to appoint a United States senator to complete Barack Obama's term. The governor, a Democrat, denies any wrongdoing and has refused to resign.
So, for the first time in state history, the Illinois House of Representatives in Springfield voted Friday to impeach the governor. Next comes a Senate trial that could end with his removal from office.
("Chicago" / Frank Sinatra)
Chicago is America's third biggest city by population, after New York and Los Angeles. Almost three million people live in Chicago. More than nine million live in surrounding communities.
Many Chicago neighborhoods have ethnic roots in Poland, Germany, Ireland and Italy. More recent immigrants have come from all over the world. Students in the public schools speak more than one hundred languages at home. President-elect Obama has chosen the chief executive officer of the Chicago schools, Arne Duncan, to become his education secretary.
About thirty-eight percent of the people in Chicago are white. Thirty-five percent are black. Twenty-eight percent are Hispanic or Latino. And five percent are Asian.
These estimates from the United States Census Bureau were gathered between two thousand five and two thousand seven. The results also show that seventeen percent of families in the city were living below the poverty level, seven points higher than the national rate. For individuals, the poverty rate was twenty-one percent, almost eight points higher than the rate nationally.
In all three of America's biggest cities, murder rates have fallen to their lowest levels since the nineteen sixties. Los Angeles continued the trend of fewer murders in two thousand eight.
New York, however, had a five percent increase. And early results from Chicago showed a jump of fifteen percent. Police spokeswoman Monique Bond says Chicago had five hundred ten murders last year -- the first increase since two thousand three. She says that, overall, crime in the city appears to have increased by two percent. New York and Los Angeles both reported overall decreases in crime last year.
("Sweet Home Chicago" / Junior Parker)
The Obamas plan to keep their Chicago house while they live in the White House. Their home is in the Kenwood neighborhood, next to Hyde Park. Hyde Park is the area on the South Side of Chicago where the University of Chicago is located.
Barack Obama taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago Law School. He taught there part time for twelve years.
These days, people are coming from all over to visit Hyde Park and Kenwood. They want to get close to the Obamas' big brick house on Greenwood Avenue. But the area is guarded by the Secret Service and Chicago police.
Visitors find it much easier to take a popular bus tour and see Barack Obama's best-liked places around Chicago. These include his favorite bookstore on Fifty-seventh Street and the barber shop on Blackstone Boulevard where he got his hair cut.
People can also visit the Valois (pronounced vuh-loys) Cafeteria in Hyde Park where he sometimes ate breakfast. The Obamas also ate at Spiaggia, an Italian restaurant famous for its food and its view of Lake Michigan.
("Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is" / Chicago)
Downtown Chicago, the city's business center, is known as the Loop. The Loop includes the financial district around LaSalle Street.
Chicago is a major transportation center for the Midwest. Chicago O'Hare is one of the world's busiest airports. And ships can reach the Atlantic Ocean from the Great Lakes through the Saint Lawrence Seaway. This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of the seaway's opening.
Looking for things to do in Chicago? Art lovers can check out the new Asian galleries at the Art Institute of Chicago. Want to explore a working coal mine and a World War Two submarine? Then head to the Museum of Science and Industry.
People can learn about outer space at Chicago's Adler Planetarium and about life under the sea at the Shedd Aquarium.
A big place for outdoor activity is Millennium Park near Lake Michigan. The park opened in two thousand four, after almost nine years of costly work.
The park has one of the world's largest outdoor sculptures, a ten-ton creation by Anish Kapoor.
Millennium Park is an extension of Chicago's Grant Park. Police fought with demonstrators in Grant Park during the nineteen sixty-eight Democratic National Convention in Chicago. The demonstrators were protesting the war in Vietnam, racism and other issues.
Forty years later, in two thousand eight, the world got a different look at Grant Park. It was filled with a huge crowd on November fourth as the nation's next president gave his victory speech on election night.
("Chicago" / Sufjan Stevens)
Our program was written by Jerilyn Watson and produced by Caty Weaver. I'm Barbara Klein.
And I'm Steve Ember. Transcripts and MP3s of our programs are at voaspecialenglish.com. Join us again next week for THIS IS AMERICA in VOA Special English.