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392 Topics: American Presidents - Dwight D. Eisenhower; path versus route versus track; stuff; anon

Complete Transcript
You're listening to ESL Podcast English Café number 392.

This is English as a Second Language Podcast’s English Café episode 392. I'm your host, Dr. Jeff McQuillan, coming from the Center for Educational Development in Los Angeles, California.

Our website is ESLPod.com. (I promise to talk normally now.) This episode, like all of our episodes, has a Learning Guide, and if you become a member, you can get one. Go to our website for more information.

On this Café, we’re going to cover just one big topic. We’re going to continue our series on American Presidents, focusing on our 34th president, one of the most famous and popular presidents during the twentieth century, Dwight D. Eisenhower. And as always, we’ll answer a few of your questions. Let's get started.

This Café begins with the continuation of our series on American Presidents. Today, we're going to talk about Dwight D. Eisenhower, who was the 34th president of the United States.

Eisenhower was born in the state of Texas, which is in the south central part of the U.S., next to Mexico. He was born in 1890 and he graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. I talked about West Point on an earlier Café. It is where all of the best soldiers in the Army, young men and women, go and they get a college degree and then they work for the military. It's what we call a “military academy,” which is just another word here for colleg e or university.

Eisenhower went to West Point, which is in the state of New York. He wanted to be in the military – especially, he wanted to serve overseas. “To serve overseas” means to go and work in another country, to be a military man, in this case, in another country. In World War II, he wanted to go to Europe, but his request was denied. They said “No. You have to spend some time here in the United States.” Instead, Eisenhower helped set up a camp – a place to train other soldiers who were then going to fight in combat. “Combat” (combat) is another word for fighting. However, the war ended before the men that Eisenhower trained could get to Europe and participate in World War I.

After World War I, Eisenhower worked for several other important military leaders – generals, as the leaders are called in the army. The leaders included one of the most famous men of the 20th century in terms of military history, Douglas MacArthur. Eisenhower worked for MacArthur in the 1930s. He also had an important position in the Panama Canal Zone. Previously, for many years, the United States owned and operated a canal in Panama that connected the Atlantic with the Pacific Ocean. Well, Eisenhower worked down in Panama for the Army. He also worked in Washington DC, our nation 's capital, and in the Philippines.

During World War II, Eisenhower rose to a position of very high leadership himself. He became a general, and planned and supervised one of the most important military operations of World War II – the invasion of Europe. In 1942, he was named the Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in Europe. The Supreme Commander would be the highest commander. Eisenhower was in charge of the military operations of the Allied forces. The Allied forces included Great Britain, those French soldiers who had not been captured by the Germans, the Americans, of course, and many other countries who formed part of the alliance that fought against Hitler's Germany in World War II.

Eisenhower supervised the invasion of Europe as well as of North Africa. An “invasion” (invasion) is when an army enters into another country that is not their own. In 1944, Eisenhower became General of the Army. So, he was basically the leader of the U.S. Army. Eisenhower was promoted, or made a higher-level officer, several times during his career before he became the Supreme Commander.

Some people have wondered why Eisenhower became so popular. The answer is, he was able to persuade or convince other people to change their opinions often, but he was also a very affable man. “Affable” (affable) is someone who is friendly, someone who is easy to talk to. Eisenhower was able to use that part of his personality, if you will, to advance his career, to move up in leadership positions in the army. The most important leadership position, or at least one of the most important in World War II, was that of being Commander – leader – on D-Day. “D-Day” in English, refers to June 6th 1944. That's the day that the Allied forces went into France in an attempt to push the Germans out of France and to defeat Germany. The invasion was not considered by many people to be a good idea. Many people said that it wouldn't be successful, but in fact, it was successful, and the Allied forces were able to go into France after June 6, 1944 and eventually, of course, win the war.

The success that Eisenhower himself had as leader on D-Day made him even more popular. It set the stage, we might say, for his career later in politics. “To set the stage” means to prepare for something to happen. Eisenhower 's success, his military success, prepared him for his political success later on. Of course, this is not an uncommon pattern where you have a general, a popular general, who later becomes the political leader of his or her country.

After World War II, Eisenhower was the leader of the U.S. occupation zone in Europe, what we would call the “military governor.” He worked in postwar Germany bringing food and other kinds of assistance to the German people after the end of the war. He eventually returned to Washington, D.C. as the Chief of Staff of the Army – once again, a very important leadership position in the U.S. military. Many people encouraged him to run for president. But in 1948, which was the next presidential election, he decided he would not try to become president. Instead, to many people’s surprise, he accepted a position as the president of a well-known university in New York City – Columbia University, one of the best universities in the United States.

Eisenhower, however, didn't think he really fit in at the university. “To fit in” means to feel part of a group, to get along with everyone, to feel like you are a member of the group. Eisenhower was not an intellectual. He was a military man. He didn't think that he fit in with the other academics at the university.

When we say “academics,” we’re referring now to people, to the professors. “Academics” can also refer to the subjects that you study in college or at the university. Eisenhower left his position a few years later and in 1951, he was named the Supreme Commander of NATO. “NATO” was the military organization of the non-Communist countries, basically, in Europe, or at least many of them. But again, surprising some people, he returned to be president of Columbia later that next year.

The next presidential election was to be a 1952, and many people were encouraging Eisenhower to run as a candidate for the presidency. He decided eventually to accept these invitations and he began to campaign for the highest office in the US government – the presidency. He had a very simple slogan. Of course, everyone knew Eisenhower. His nickname was “Ike” (Ike) and his slogan, his saying that he used in his political campaign, was very simple: “I like Ike.” “Like” and “Ike,” of course, being rhyming words. They were easy to remember. Eisenhower ran as a Republican and won the presidency in 1952, and became president officially that next year, in 1953.

Eisenhower focused a lot on the war in Korea which had started. He is also known for someone who was concerned about the spread of communism from the Soviet Union, and helped develop many of the early strategies the United States used in what we refer to as the Cold War – the struggle, if you will, between the U.S. and the Soviet Union during the middle and late 20th century.

When Eisenhower decided to run for president again in 1956, he defeated his opponent Adlai Stevenson in a landslide. The expression “in a landslide” means that you win the election with many, many more votes than you actually need. There have been not a lot of landslide elections in American history recently, but the 1956 election was a landslide, just as the 1984 election of Ronald Reagan was a landslide. Both of those were reelections, their second time running.

Eisenhower beat Stevenson in 1956 and poor Stevenson, his opponent, the Democrat, he also lost Eisenhower in 1952. So, he was defeated twice. Eisenhower, then, was president from 1953 until 1961. He was considered a very friendly man. He was very well liked by the average American. He was, after all a “war hero” – someone who was considered a hero from World War II. He was also admired for his down-to-earth attitude, his down-to-earth personality. The expression “down-to-earth” means you are somewhat humble. You don't consider yourself better than other people. You're also very practical, very realistic. You're able to do things just like everyone else. You don't just dream about the future or use your imagination to spend your time all day. You actually get some work done, and are friendly about it.

I mentioned that Eisenhower was a Republican. In the United States, the Republican Party tends to be the party with more conservative politics. The Democratic Party tends to have more politically liberal views. Eisenhower was definitely more conservative than the Democrats of his time, but he was never considered to be someone with very strong political views, certainly not someone with very strong conservative views.

In fact, many conservative Republicans didn't really like Eisenhower. They didn't think he was conservative enough. He did however, lower taxes and decreased the government control of the economy in many ways. He also balanced the budget. “To balance (balance) the budget (budget)” means to make sure that the government is spending more money than the taxes that they are receiving from the people. That doesn't happen very often in our national government. So, that was something Eisenhower did that was unusual.

Eisenhower was also remembered for some important changes here in the United States. He helped begin what is called the “Interstate Highway System,” where the federal government paid to put new highways throughout the entire United States. Those highways are still the main roads that we use today. Eisenhower was also famous for his role in desegregation. “Desegregation” (desegregation) refers to the process of helping African-Americans, helping blacks, become part of the larger society. In the 1950s, there was still a lot of racism, a lot of prejudice against black people, especially in the southern U.S. states. Eisenhower was a strong supporter of civil rights and of desegregation. Eisenhower is also remembered as the president who started NASA – the National Aeronautic and Space Administration. This was started after the Soviet Union launched or put into space its first satellite, Sputnik.

I mentioned earlier Eisenhower 's experience in foreign-policy in shaping or forming U.S. approaches to the Soviet Union. American government officials wanted to make sure the Soviet Union didn't take over any more countries or take over the governments or influence the governments of more countries, and so, Eisenhower developed a policy called the “Eisenhower Doctrine.” The Eisenhower Doctrine or the Eisenhower Rule, if you will, was the idea that other countries could request assistance from the United States if they were being attacked. Specifically, this referred to countries that may have been feeling pressure due to the spread of communist ideas. As a result of the Eisenhower Doctrine, a lot of U.S. money and weapons went into the Middle East in order to prevent the Soviet Union from having too much influence in Middle Eastern countries. This was the beginning of a long and not always happy involvement of the U.S. in Middle Eastern politics.

When Eisenhower was ready to leave the White House, to leave the office of the presidency, he gave what's called a farewell address. It's a speech saying goodbye to everyone. That's the meaning of “farewell.” Eisenhower’s speech however, wasn't just a short speech thanking people and saying what a great time he had here in Washington. Instead, he used his address to warn the country about what he called the “military-industrial complex.” The military-industrial complex, according to Eisenhower, was a collection of big American companies, businesses, that were involved in the manufacture of weapons, of making guns and other things for the U.S. military. Eisenhower warned people that this sometimes was a dangerous relationship and that we had to somehow control the military – and remember, Eisenhower was a general – and the businesses that sell things to the military. That phrase “military-industrial complex” refers to the informal connection that the U.S. military has with the companies that sell things to it. This was a very unusual way for a former general to leave the office of presidency.

Eisenhower had heart problems throughout his presidency. He in fact died of heart failure in 1969. Then-President Richard Nixon called him “the world's most admired and respected man, truly the first citizen of the world.” For those who lived in the middle of the 20th century, Eisenhower certainly was a well-known figure, both as a general during World War II and later as a two-term American president, a president who served two periods as president, for a total of eight years.

Now let’s answer some of the questions you have sent to us .

Our first question comes from the Czech republic from Vitek (Vitek). The question has to do with three words – “path,” “route,” and “track.” All three words can have similar meanings. Let's talk about what they mean and how we use each one.

The first word “path” (path) can mean a narrow area that we use to get from one place to another. It could be walking through a park, for example, or through a garden. Your path is any area that you use as you move yourself from one place to another. Sometimes people use the word path also to mean the direction that you are following. “My path in life” would refer to the things that you are going to do, one after another, in order to move forward, if you will, in your life. But the more general meaning is simply the area where you walk or where you ride your bike to get from one place to another.

“Route” (route), which can also be pronounced “route,” also is the area that you would travel to get from one place to another. However, we use route usually to refer to a very specific way that you can get from one place to another, one that is often used over and over again. For example, we might talk about the “bus route.” This is the route that the city bus takes, and it doesn't take a new route every day, right? It takes the same route and in a big city, you might have many different city buses taking different routes, but they take the same route every day. That's a more common use of the word route. It can be used generally to mean the same as path, but it's more common in the use I just described.

“Track” (track) can mean a couple of different things. It can mean something similar to path and route, when we’re talking about a competition, especially a race. We talk about the area where the horses run around in a circle when they’re racing each other to be a “race track.” Or in the Olympics, when the men and women are running around the stadium, they’re running on a race or “running track.” So, track is a path, but it's one specifically designed for some sort of race or competition. Track can also refer to the things that a train rides on. We call those “railroad tracks.” The physical metal bars that the train moves on – that's also a track.

A path, then, is a more general word to describe any area that you travel over from one place to another. It's often used, however, when we are referring to area that doesn't have any roads or doesn't have any sidewalks, and yet there is a place that many people have walked before. That is called a “path.” A route is usually a “regularly scheduled” path that a bus or some other moving vehicle, like a car, takes every day. And track refers to something that you would run on or that you would have a race on, typically going around in a circle.

Our next question comes from Colombia from Fernando (Fernando). Fernando wants to know how we use the word “stuff” (stuff). “Stuff” is one of the most common words that you'll hear in conversational English and informal English. It is a word that we use to describe really anything with. It is often used as a synonym for “thing.” However, there are some more specific meanings of stuff.

Stuff can refer to things that you own, to what we would call your “belongings.” “My closet has a lot of stuff in it.” My closet has many things that I own inside of it. Stuff can also refer to materials, the thing that something is made of. Stuff often refers to the material inside of another material. If you add an -ing to the word, it can refer to food. “Stuffing” for example, is a kind of food that you put inside of a turkey when you cook it or it could be what's inside of a bun or a roll – that could also have stuffing in it.

As I mentioned earlier, stuff is often used as a synonym for things or items. “What's all this stuff doing here?” What are all these things doing here? What are all these items doing here? Why are they here? “Who left this stuff on the floor?” It could be dirt. It could be a bag. It could be many things. That meaning of stuff, to mean things or items, is probably the most common. Stuff can also be a verb. “To stuff something” means to put something inside of something else, often when there isn't enough room. If you're going on a long trip, you may have to stuff your suitcase. You may have to try to put as much as you can, and then you sit on top of the suitcase, right? And then you can close the suitcase. That would be “to stuff your suitcase.” We would also use the verb “cram” (cram) for that action.

Stuff should only be used in a formal sense when you are referring to the material that is inside of something, as I described earlier. However, stuff has become extremely common in conversational English, especially among younger people, to be a word that describes really any item, any thing. In fact, students might talk about the “stuff” they're studying in school: “Can you help me with this stuff?” Can you help me with my homework?

Finally, Reza (Reza) from Iran wants to know the meaning of a word he saw, “anon” (anon), such as in the expression “ever and anon.” “Anon” is not a word that we use anymore either in spoken or written English, at least not very often. You may see it, however, in some old books, some old English writing. When you see it in those situations, anon can mean “soon” or “shortly,” but anon can also mean “later.” It depends on the context, but both of these uses are very rare in modern English. The one time you might see “anon” in English is as an abbreviation for the word “anonymous.” “Anonymous” is a person whose name is not known, an unidentified person. In some places they may abbreviate anonymous to “anon” (anon) to refer to that person. That's about the only place that you would see it, usually in writing and as an abbreviation. Otherwise, you can not worry too much about anon, and certainly don't use it in conversation or writing because, well, most Americans won't know what you're saying. Kind of like my wife – she never knows what I'm saying.

We know what you're saying. Or at least we try to know. So, write us at eslpod@eslpod.com. If you have a question, we’ll do our best to answer it.

From Los Angeles, California, I'm Jeff McQuillan. Thank you for listening. Come back and listen to us again right here on the English Café.

ESL Podcast English Café was written and produced by Dr. Jeff McQuillan and Dr. Lucy Tse. This podcast is copyright 2013 by the Center for Educational Development.

combat – fighting in a battle or war; fighting between armies

* Laura was shot and injured during combat.

invasion – when one army enters another country or territory forcefully, without permission

* Towns on the border between these two hostile countries have to guard against invasion.

affable – friendly and easy to talk to

* The storeowner is very affable and customers like shopping in her store.

D-day – the day when the Allied forces landed in France during World War II; June 6, 1944

* Many soldiers were killed on the beaches of Normandy on D-day.

to set the stage – to prepare for something to happen; to create the circumstances that makes something possible

* Gemma set the stage for a big family fight by inviting Aunt Caroline, whom no one can get along with.

to fit in – to be part of a group and to get along well with the other people in that group

* Attending high school is difficult for many teenagers who feel they don’t fit in.

in a landslide – winning an election with many more votes than the other candidate

* Olympia won the election in a landslide, getting 83% of the votes.

down-to-earth – someone who is practical and realistic, able to do things on a day-to-day basis, not just dreaming about the future or thinking about things that are unimportant

* Carlos has always been down-to-earth and able to make practical and sound decisions.

to balance the budget – to change things so that a government (or a business or family) does not spend more than it earns

* We owe several thousands of dollars on our credit cards, and if we don’t balance the budget in this family, we’re going to lose this house!

desegregation – ending the policy of keeping people of different races apart in businesses, schools, and other circumstances

* Desegregation of schools in the southern United States began in the 1960’s.

Eisenhower doctrine – the idea that other countries can request assistance from the United States if other countries are being aggressive toward them

* The Eisenhower doctrine was controversial among Americans who prefer to stay out of the business of other nations.

military-industrial complex – the collection of businesses, especially weapons manufacturers, that work closely with the military

* A rise in the military budget benefited the military-industrial complex.

path – a cleared area through natural material (such as grass or forest) formed by people or animals walking on it many times over time; a narrow area used to get from one place to another; the direction that an object follows

* While walking through the woods, be sure to stay on the path so that you don’t get lost.

route – a road or way that is regularly traveled; a specific way that is followed, usually with scheduled stops

* Is this the route that the bus normally takes, or should I wait on the next street?

track - two rails pointing in the same direction that a train rides on; footprints or other evidence that a person or animal has been nearby; a course made for a specific purpose, such as for a race

* We can’t have a race on the runner’s track until the holes are repaired.

stuff – items; belongings; the material that something is made of

* Who left all of this sports stuff in the hallway?

anon – abbreviation for “anonymous,” a person whose name is not known; an unidentified person; old-fashioned term meaning “soon,” “shortly,” or “later”

* We don’t know who wrote this poem because the author is listed as “anon.”

What Insiders Know
Presidential Nicknames

Presidents of the United States are often given nicknames. A nickname can be a shorter version of the person’s real name. Sometimes people give presidents nicknames because of something in their past. Abraham Lincoln was given the nickname “Honest Abe.” When Abraham Lincoln was young, he was the manager of a small store. When he saw that a customer had been charged too much money for an item, he closed the store and walked to the customer’s house to return the money. He was given the nickname “Honest Abe” because of this and similar stories.

Theodore Roosevelt was nicknamed “Teddy.” A newspaper started calling him this as a shortened version of Theodore. The name became popular and soon a toy company made a stuffed animal (a soft toy made to look like an animal) in the shape of a bear and called it a “Teddy bear” after Theodore Roosevelt. We still call similar toys teddy bears.

Ronald Reagan was a popular actor before he became president. In one of his roles he played a character named “The Gipper.” He had many fans when he was an actor. These fans started calling him “The Gipper” because they enjoyed his role in that movie.

Some presidents were commonly known by their initials. John F. Kennedy was frequently called JFK. One of the airports in New York City is named for John F. Kennedy is also often simply called JFK. Another president that is well known by his initials is Franklin Delano Roosevelt. He is often referred to as FDR.

Two U.S. presidents shared the same name because they were father and son. George Herbert Walker Bush was the father of George Walker Bush. Both men were president within a few years of each other. In order to “lessen” (reduce) the confusion, the older Bush is often called “Papa Bush.” The son is often called “Dubya” which is the way Texans pronounce his middle initial, “W.”