Commentary Series

Mon-Thurs 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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In physics, centripetal forces propel objects toward the center and centrifugal forces drive them away. And today, our societies and communities are engaged in an epic battle between these two opposing forces.

Mares: Critical Thinking

Dec 15, 2017

For 20 years, my license plate read THINK as an injunction to both my students and the general public.

Every year the people of Iceland enjoy a phenomenon called the Christmas Book Flood. And while I appreciate the image of books flowing through Icelandic fjords, I hasten to add that this isn’t a natural phenomenon. It’s the publishing industry’s response to the Icelandic tradition of giving books on Christmas Eve, so that people may stay up late into the night reading… usually with chocolate.

I did not grow up attending holiday bazaars, but after thirty years in Vermont I’ve come to appreciate these local markets that seem to come with the season. It’s a tradition that dates back to the Middle Ages and the German immigrants who brought the Christmas markets with them to the US – and before that to tenth century Middle Eastern bazaars.

I’m a volunteer for Everybody Wins, a reading program for elementary school children. And recently, I was reading with a nine year old third grader in the library of the school near where I live when an announcement came over the loud speakers that we were in a lock down and to find a secure space.

I just biked after the first snow on our family’s electric cargo bike, and I’m planning to continue to ride through the winter with my kids.

Many nonprofit organizations exist to bridge the gap between what government provides its citizens and what citizens really need. So, as our government has reduced funding over the years for cultural needs like public art accessibility, and not increased funding to deal with crises like the opioid epidemic, nonprofit organizations have stepped in to provide those services.

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.

Recently, The Washington Post published an Op Ed piece by Alexander Pyron, an evolutionary biologist at George Washington University, titled “We Don’t Need To Save Endangered Species.” The author argued that extinction is both natural and unimportant and that humans should take care of themselves, trusting Earth to correct any arrogant mistakes over deep time.

Recent news about sexual harassment and violence have lit up every point in the political heavens. The most discussed stories touch mainstream Democrats, like Harvey Weinstein; conservatives like Roger Ailes; left-liberals, like Al Franken and John Conyers; and nominally Republican President Donald Trump, himself.

Today, Gov. Phil Scott convenes an Education Summit to address “the crisis of affordability and how it impacts the opportunities we are able to provide our children.” In his letter announcing the Summit to education leaders, the governor said that he wants greater long-term cost containment in the public school system.

Galway Kinnell died at his home in Sheffield in 2014, at the age of 87. His many admirers mourned the loss, but also celebrated the poet who once said his job was “to figure out what’s happening within oneself, to figure out the connection between the self and the world, and to get it down in words that have a lasting shape.”

After the shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas that left 26 dead and many wounded, many of us had the same thought: of all places for this to happen – a church, and in the middle of a worship service. One might think a church would provide some shelter from such things.

The late attorney Bob Gensburg was a tireless champion against injustice, even when it was difficult and unpopular.

I want to begin by saying I was a former employee of Time-Warner and I’m not a fan of big media mergers. While I personally had a good experience at CNN, big media has become so big, it’s just scary.

William Mayer, pre-eminent American composer and some-time Vermonter, has died. Born in 1925, Mayer was a Phi Beta Kappa Yale graduate, and he studied composition at Juilliard and the Mannes School of Music.

Today, legislation is under consideration in Washington that would, by most accounts, amount to a massive transfer of wealth from middle class Americans to large corporations and the super rich.

I recently attended a gala celebrating Holton Home, a senior residence in Brattleboro, that’s been providing care for elders since it was chartered as The Brattleboro Home for the Aged and Disabled in eighteen ninety-two.

Holiday dinners are not what they used to be for my family. They’re smaller and quieter. Parents and grandparents on both sides of the family are long gone, and Liz and I are now the senior generation.

Frederic Silberman. / Flynn Center for the Performing Arts

Growing up in a working-class family in Chicago, I did not experience a lot of culture - but a school trip to the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater changed my life.

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