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Annotated captions of Hans Rosling and the magic washing machine in English

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I was only four years old

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when I saw my mother load a washing machine

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for the very first time in her life.

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That was a great day for my mother.

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My mother and father had been saving money for years

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to be able to buy that machine,

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and the first day it was going to be used,

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even Grandma was invited

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to see the machine.

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And Grandma was even more excited.

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Throughout her life

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she had been heating water with firewood,

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and she had hand washed laundry

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for seven children.

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And now she was going to watch

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electricity do that work.

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My mother carefully opened the door,

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and she loaded the laundry

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into the machine,

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like this.

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And then, when she closed the door,

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Grandma said, "No, no, no, no.

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Let me, let me push the button."

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And Grandma pushed the button,

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and she said, "Oh, fantastic!

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I want to see this! Give me a chair!

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Give me a chair! I want to see it,"

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and she sat down in front of the machine,

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and she watched the entire washing program.

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She was mesmerized.

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To my grandmother,

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the washing machine was a miracle.

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Today, in Sweden and other rich countries,

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people are using

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so many different machines.

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Look, the homes are full of machines.

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I can't even name them all.

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And they also, when they want to travel,

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they use flying machines

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that can take them to remote destinations.

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And yet, in the world, there are so many people

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who still heat the water on fire,

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and they cook their food on fire.

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Sometimes they don't even have enough food,

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and they live below the poverty line.

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There are two billion fellow human beings

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who live on less than two dollars a day.

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And the richest people over there --

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there's one billion people --

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and they live above what I call the "air line,"

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because they spend more than $80 a day

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on their consumption.

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But this is just one, two, three billion people,

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and obviously there are seven billion people in the world,

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so there must be one, two, three, four billion people more

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who live in between the poverty and the air line.

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They have electricity,

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but the question is, how many have washing machines?

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I've done the scrutiny of market data,

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and I've found that, indeed,

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the washing machine has penetrated below the air line,

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and today there's an additional one billion people out there

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who live above the "wash line."

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(Laughter)

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And they consume more than $40 per day.

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So two billion have access to washing machines.

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And the remaining five billion,

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how do they wash?

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Or, to be more precise,

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how do most of the women in the world wash?

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Because it remains hard work for women to wash.

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They wash like this: by hand.

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It's a hard, time-consuming labor,

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which they have to do for hours every week.

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And sometimes they also have to bring water from far away

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to do the laundry at home,

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or they have to bring the laundry away to a stream far off.

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And they want the washing machine.

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They don't want to spend such a large part of their life

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doing this hard work

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with so relatively low productivity.

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And there's nothing different in their wish

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than it was for my grandma.

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Look here, two generations ago in Sweden --

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picking water from the stream,

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heating with firewood and washing like that.

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They want the washing machine in exactly the same way.

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But when I lecture to environmentally-concerned students,

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they tell me, "No, everybody in the world cannot have cars and washing machines."

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How can we tell this woman

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that she ain't going to have a washing machine?

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And then I ask my students,

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I've asked them -- over the last two years I've asked,

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"How many of you doesn't use a car?"

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And some of them proudly raise their hand

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and say, "I don't use a car."

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And then I put the really tough question:

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"How many of you

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hand-wash your jeans and your bed sheets?"

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And no one raised their hand.

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Even the hardcore in the green movement

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use washing machines.

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(Laughter)

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So how come [this is] something that everyone uses

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and they think others will not stop it? What is special with this?

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I had to do an analysis about the energy used in the world.

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Here we are.

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Look here, you see the seven billion people up there:

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the air people, the wash people,

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the bulb people and the fire people.

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One unit like this

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is an energy unit of fossil fuel --

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oil, coal or gas.

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That's what most of electricity and the energy in the world is.

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And it's 12 units used in the entire world,

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and the richest one billion, they use six of them.

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Half of the energy is used by one seventh of the world's population.

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And these ones who have washing machines,

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but not a house full of other machines,

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they use two.

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This group uses three, one each.

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And they also have electricity.

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And over there they don't even use one each.

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That makes 12 of them.

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But the main concern

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for the environmentally-interested students -- and they are right --

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is about the future.

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What are the trends? If we just prolong the trends,

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without any real advanced analysis, to 2050,

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there are two things that can increase the energy use.

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First, population growth.

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Second, economic growth.

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Population growth will mainly occur among the poorest people here

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because they have high child mortality

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and they have many children per woman.

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And [with] that you will get two extra,

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but that won't change the energy use very much.

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What will happen is economic growth.

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The best of here in the emerging economies --

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I call them the New East --

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they will jump the air line.

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"Wopp!" they will say.

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And they will start to use as much as the Old West are doing already.

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And these people, they want the washing machine.

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I told you. They'll go there.

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And they will double their energy use.

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And we hope that the poor people will get into the electric light.

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And they'll get a two-child family without a stop in population growth.

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But the total energy consumption

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will increase to 22 units.

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And these 22 units --

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still the richest people use most of it.

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So what needs to be done?

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Because the risk,

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the high probability of climate change is real.

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It's real.

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Of course they must be more energy-efficient.

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They must change behavior in some way.

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They must also start to produce green energy,

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much more green energy.

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But until they have the same energy consumption per person,

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they shouldn't give advice to others --

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what to do and what not to do.

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(Applause)

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Here we can get more green energy all over.

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This is what we hope may happen.

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It's a real challenge in the future.

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But I can assure you that this woman in the favela in Rio,

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she wants a washing machine.

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She's very happy about her minister of energy

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that provided electricity to everyone --

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so happy that she even voted for her.

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And she became Dilma Rousseff,

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the president-elect

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of one of the biggest democracies in the world --

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moving from minister of energy to president.

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If you have democracy,

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people will vote for washing machines.

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They love them.

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And what's the magic with them?

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My mother explained the magic with this machine

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the very, very first day.

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She said, "Now Hans,

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we have loaded the laundry.

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The machine will make the work.

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And now we can go to the library."

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Because this is the magic:

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you load the laundry,

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and what do you get out of the machine?

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You get books out of the machines,

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children's books.

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And mother got time to read for me.

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She loved this. I got the "ABC's" --

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this is where I started my career as a professor,

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when my mother had time to read for me.

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And she also got books for herself.

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She managed to study English

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and learn that as a foreign language.

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And she read so many novels,

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so many different novels here.

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And we really, we really loved this machine.

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And what we said, my mother and me,

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"Thank you industrialization.

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Thank you steel mill.

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Thank you power station.

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And thank you chemical processing industry

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that gave us time to read books."

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Thank you very much.

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(Applause)