Commentary Series

Weekdays 8:50 a.m. and 5:50 p.m. Sundays at 10.55 a.m.

More than 50 commentators provide perspective and opinion about current events, topics of interest, and often showcase the work of writers and storytellers.  The VPR Commentary Series is produced by Betty Smith-Mastaler.

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McCallum: Jury Duty

5 hours ago

This spring I was summoned for jury duty. I’d happily fallen through the cracks for decades but now my number was up. A letter arrived that instructed me to report in two months to the county criminal court for jury selection. Honestly, my first reaction was dismay over the inconvenience it would cause in my personal and professional life. But that morphed into curiosity about a process I’d witnessed only on television and the big screen.

Slayton: Green Up Day

8 hours ago

Greenup Day, as just about every Vermonter knows, is a Saturday in May dedicated to a statewide cleanup effort. What you may not know, however, is just how widespread this effort has become.

It was started in 1970 by Gov. Deane C. Davis. By the 1990s, 7,000 Vermonters in towns across the state were involved. And today, more than 20,000 individuals in every single town in Vermont arm themselves with rakes and trash bags and head out to do battle with a winter’s worth of trash.

Beck: Before Vaccines

Apr 24, 2015

Few of us remember how dangerous diseases like measles and polio were before vaccination, but a story told by Everett Palmer of Waitsfield and archived by the Vermont Folklife Center brings this home vividly.

When a recent commentary about the need for intelligent and empathetic discussions about vaccines by Abby Mnookin ended with a plea to “relearn how to talk to each other with compassion and to consider the broader impact of our decisions,” I was both amused and appalled when the thread of comments that followed escalated into an on-line shouting match, complete with snide remarks and name-calling – until VPR closed the thread.

Almost 400 years ago, after nearly dying from typhus, the great English poet John Donne wrote that:

"...all mankind is of one author, and is one volume; when one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language; and every chapter must be so translated; God employs several translators; some pieces are translated by age, some by sickness, some by war, some by justice; but God's hand is in every translation, and his hand shall bind up all our scattered leaves again for that library where every book shall lie open to one another."

Call me cynical, but I wonder how the media might have described the co-pilot of the Lufthansa Airbus that was deliberately flown into the Alps to kill all 150 passengers aboard if the name of the pilot had been Ahmed or Muhammed instead of Andreas.

Adrian: High Drama

Apr 22, 2015

Under English common law, the crime of mayhem involved maliciously injuring another person so that he would be unable “to defend himself or annoy his adversary.” The colloquial definition of mayhem now entails causing rowdy disruption or confusion. And I would argue that the recently proposed legislation to outlaw alcohol by several members of the Vermont House to underscore the double standard that applies to the sustained proscription of marijuana, comes close to qualifying as political mayhem.

Governor Shumlin recently announced a new plan to end homelessness by 2020. Unfortunately, the plan seems to be getting little traction, perhaps because he introduced a similar, five year plan in 2013, and since then homelessness in Vermont has actually gone up.

Krupp: Birds in the Bush

Apr 20, 2015

The Bird Friendly Maple Project is a partnership between local Audubon biologists, the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks & Recreation, and the Vermont Maple Sugar Makers Association with support from the Proctor Maple Research Center and the Vermont Community Foundation.

Turns out there's more to maple sugaring than boiling sap into sweet syrup - and it's all about the birds. Each May, many maple sugarbushes ring with the songs of migratory birds such as the wood thrush, scarlet tanager, the Eastern wood pewee and black throated blue warbler.

Mares: Sacred Space

Apr 20, 2015

I've been doing some research for a book project with retired UVM professor Bill Lipke about war monuments, memorials and cemeteries in the U.S., Canada, and Great Britain. The final chapter treats Vermont's memorial landscape – and that includes the State House, where there are memorials related to six different wars. Sorting out the jumble of events people and places there is a little like excavating layers of the city of Troy.