Peter Gilbert


Peter Gilbert is executive director of the Vermont Humanities Council.

For commentaries from Peter before April 2013, visit the VPR Archive.

Ninety years ago tomorrow President Warren G. Harding died suddenly, probably of a heart attack, while on a long and exhausting speaking tour around the American west. With his death Vice President Calvin Coolidge became the thirtieth president of the United States.

I’m often struck by how the arc of history often seems remarkably short. Particularly as I’ve grown older, I’ve noticed how important historical events or eras that I’ve thought of as being remote from each other are often more closely linked than I might have imagined.

Gilbert: The Campfire

May 20, 2013

Harvard professor emeritus Edward O. Wilson is regarded as one of the world’s preeminent biologists, sociobiologists, and naturalists. An entomologist, he’s the world’s leading authority on ants.


In his recently published book, The Social Conquest of Earth, Wilson describes how “eusocial” species have become the dominant species on earth.


Seventy-five years ago, a summer visitor to the state would most likely have consulted the Guide to Vermont, published in 1937 by the Federal Writers’ Project - part of FDR’s Works Progress Administration. Today the Guide offers an intriguing look at how much Vermont has changed since that time, and how much it’s stayed the same.

From the very first sentence of the preface, the Guide celebrates community and cooperation, which is appropriate given that it was written by multiple authors as part of a New Deal employment project.

In April 1813 two hundred years ago this month, an American ship, the Nanina, was sailing off one of the smaller Falkland Islands in the South Atlantic hunting seals. While ashore, the captain, Charles Barnard, and members of the crew, saw signs of human life, presumably survivors of some shipwreck.

In March 1998, almost exactly fifteen years ago, Time Magazine celebrated its 75th anniversary with a gala gathering at Radio City in New York attended by 1200 of the biggest movers and shakers in the world. Speakers at the dinner included President Bill Clinton, Mikhail Gorbachev, Bill Gates, Toni Morrison, and Steven Spielberg. A number of guests paid tribute to individuals they deeply admired. John F. Kennedy, Jr., whom America knew first as John John and I knew from being his high school English teacher in the 1970s, offered a heartfelt toast to Robert McNamara.

(Host) Robert Frost died fifty years ago tomorrow at the age of eighty-eight. Here's commentator and Vermont Humanities Council executive director Peter Gilbert to tell us about the last days of a man that scholars generally now recognize as one of America's greatest poets.

Gilbert: Blizzard

Jan 10, 2013 Brunch Sampler_122612_Gilbert.mp3