Suzanne Spencer Rendahl

Commentator

Suzanne Spencer Rendahl is a former journalist whose work has appeared in publications including the Boston Globe. She lives with her husband and two children in Plainfield, NH.

Suzanne Spencer Rendahl

When I was a high school student in suburban Connecticut in the late eighties, I came across a letter on our family kitchen table one evening about an upcoming school board election.

Ira Schwartz / AP

Recently, as my eight year old son was walking through the family room, I heard him chanting something unusual: “Build a Wall! Build a Wall!”

Suzanne Spencer Rendahl / VPR

At a time when the U.S. is tending to look inward with proposed walls and tariffs, kids across the country have instead been looking beyond our borders.

My daughter’s in seventh grade - the age of pre-algebra, dances, and crushes. Once it was also the age of many newlyweds and it startles me to realize that in New Hampshire, legally speaking, it still can be.

Up until recently, I had only known the National Rifle Association as the sporting turned Second Amendment lobbying group that has fought against proposed gun restrictions, including ones for the AR-15, the assault-style rifle used in the Parkland, Florida, school shooting that left seventeen students and teachers dead.

It seemed like an uncontroversial move when the Lebanon, New Hampshire, school board voted last fall to ban faculty, students, and members of the public from bringing firearms onto school property, into school vehicles, and to school events on any property in the city.

For weeks, I slogged my way through the almost seven hundred page American Ulysses: A life of Ulysses S. Grant, one of the two recent big biographies of our 18th president, of whom I knew embarrassingly little.

For the past two decades, one of the highlights for kindergarten through third grade kids at the Plainfield, New Hampshire elementary school – and one of the biggest banes of some parents – is a research assignment called Project Sleuth.

For kindergartners it starts out relatively simple and easy: they research themselves, reporting on their heights, weights, favorite foods, and past-times.

It was a warm April afternoon in nineteen ninety nine when I first heard about the Columbine massacre in which two Columbine shooters killed thirteen before taking their own lives. I was about to teach a yoga class and my yoga training hadn’t prepared me for how to respond to an event like this. So my students and I simply sat on our mats and talked.

In nineteen eighty nine, after living in Washington State, Ohio, Virginia, and Connecticut, I moved to New Hampshire to attend college.

Suzanne Spencer Rendahl

Just as my family departed for our annual camping vacation on Cape Cod, we learned that wreckage of the World War Two era US Warship Indianapolis had finally been found.

According to the New York Times, New Hampshire, where I live, is second only to West Virginia for the highest per capita rate of deaths from opioid addiction.

My state representative Lee Oxenham recently asked me to sign a petition calling on the town select board to commit to the goals of the Paris Climate Accords. I gave it a quick look.

I’ve done a little time traveling, courtesy of The New York Times. The paper recently crunched age and diversity data from the US Census Bureau, combined the result with population projections, and compared 3,000 counties with the country as a whole, over time.

This past weekend we celebrated Memorial Day to honor fallen servicemen and women. I myself am daughter of a decorated Vietnam veteran, and while I don’t attend parades, I do pause and reflect on the price our service members pay to preserve our freedoms.

When my son and daughter look at their baby albums, they see pictures of themselves bundled in blankets alongside other mementos that most kids don’t have – like electrodes that attached to their chests and lead wires connecting them to computers that measured every heart beat and breath for weeks, and tubes used to feed them.

My town school teaches the basics well, but it doesn’t have a lot of extras. Plainfield Elementary School’s gym doubles as an auditorium. Thanks to money raised privately, we’ll finally get a new playground this summer to replace one that’s thirty years old and falling apart.

According to poll data published recently by The New York Times, Vermonters worry and talk about climate change more than the rest of the country. The Times even published a series of maps showing how people in different regions view climate change.

Almost a century ago in Charlottesville, Virginia, Carrie Buck’s mother had been institutionalized for what was then called feeblemindedness.

Like millions of kids nationwide, my seven-year-old son glues his ear to the nearest speaker whenever he hears the soundtrack of the Broadway hip-hop smash hit Hamilton.

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