Commentary Series

Mon-Thurs 6:45 a.m. and 5:50 p.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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courtesy of Stowe Farmers Market

A few years ago the book: Hardwick the Town Food Saved brought national attention to the small Northeast Kingdom Vermont town. The book profiled four entrepreneurs with a shared vision and a commitment to a locally focused ag and food economy.

An obliging passer-by

Here’s a little something to think about over the weekend, as women once again march for equal rights and the nation remembers Martin Luther King.

Last summer, Dewayne Johnson, a former school groundskeeper, made history when he sued the agrochemical corporation, Monsanto, for causing his non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and won. The jury ruled that Monsanto's weed killer, Roundup, had caused his terminal cancer.

Ram: Thoughts For MLK Day

Jan 16, 2019
Ben DeFlorio

In his Letter from Birmingham Jail in 1963, Dr. King responded to a group of white clergymen who penned a letter expressing their support for his cause, but not for the tactics of nonviolent resistance he was deploying.

Vogel: Commuter Rail

Jan 15, 2019
AllEarth Renewables

Amazon didn’t choose the cities that offered the biggest economic incentives for its much anticipated second headquarters. It chose places that it hopes will help it attract and retain highly skilled workers.

noipornpan / iStock

Recently, with my daughter and two grand-daughters, I watched Mary Poppins make her gracious, technicolor return to the disheveled, precarious lives of the Banks family. Michael Banks is now grown-up and recently widowed, with three little kids of his own. Sister Jane is a labor organizer. Short on ready cash, the siblings are about to lose their childhood home to a money-hungry banker. Enter Mary Poppins, bringing stability and compassion to a world that seems to have lost both.

Kelsey: Vaping

Jan 14, 2019
Courtney Hillhouse

In the mid-twentieth century, “cigarette girls” distributed their wares in casinos, office workers puffed away at their desks, and parents lit up while the whole family gathered in the living room to watch TV. Then, in 1964, the U.S. Surgeon General declared cigarettes dangerous. With the public health campaigns that followed, smoking gradually disappeared from American lives.

As one who’s never served in political office, I often remind myself how easy it is to opine with impunity about what’s right and wrong with our state and national governance systems – a reminder that opinion writing demands respect, objectivity, and a healthy dose of humility.


Winter’s sudden arrival this fall marked the end of a large road paving project in my town. The resurfacing of a two-lane state highway that stretches forty-two miles from Rockingham to just south of Rutland is a busy corridor, and the project that slowed traffic to a halt all spring and summer led to more than a few frayed nerves.

Marseda Halilaj

Like it or not, I’m a Vermonter, born and raised. But despite considering Vermont my home, when I meet people for the first time, their most typical reaction is the quintessential question “where are you really from?”, a surprised comment about my English, or stares that have become a discomforting norm – all of which means that I navigate Vermont in a way my peers don’t.

Vermont Department of Forests, Parks & Recreation

It was the first day of winter and the sun was out. My wife Susan and I took our dog Noel for a hike up Mt. Philo. Noel, ever the social animal, kept going up to one couple, and that opened up a conversation. When I heard their accent, I asked if they were from Montreal. No, they said, they were Hungarians visiting from New York.


Stories, as much as anything, root us to place. We’re narrative creatures, after all. So when The Brattleboro Words Project came to my attention more than a year ago, I was all in. Since then, historians have given fascinating talks about literary luminaries in the Brattleboro area.


In his new film the acclaimed New Zealand film director and producer of Lord of the Rings, Sir Peter Jackson, has all but raised the dead – by means of one hundred hours of film and six hundred hours of interviews with scores of survivors, preserved by the Imperial War Museum in London. For Jackson, it was in part a cinematic labor of love in tribute to his grandfather - a professional soldier who fought through the entire war.


In anticipation of heading into the last year of our second decade of the second millennium I asked my friends on social media to share with me their hopes, fears, and aspirations for 2019.

Daniel Ochoa de Olza / AP

The Shutdown is forcing both sides to embrace possible solutions to a problem neither particularly wants to solve. President Trump demands a border wall - what some have called a “toy” - a big display that won’t address the major challenges of immigration and border security. Democrats claim to respond with tools: targeted programs that might ease at least some of the problems along our southern border.

Moats: Time

Jan 7, 2019
William L. Moats Sr. in upper left corner, by means of a timer

The start of a new year is a marker causing us to think about where we are in a life span that may end up giving us 70, or 80, or 90 years.

Vermont Statehouse in winter, December 2016.
Meg Malone / VPR/file

Brian Mulroney was prime minister of Canada during the same years as the first George Bush was our President. The two leaders became good friends and remained so.

Slayton: The New Ceres

Jan 3, 2019
Jeb Wallace-Brodeur

The beautiful new statue of Agriculture, better known as Ceres, is finally back atop the dome of the Vermont State House, and she looks just great. She’s been up there for a while now and it still gives me a warm and happy glow every time I go past the State House and see her.

The House chamber of the Vermont Legislature
Angela Evancie / VPR/file

I’m grateful Vermonters are willing to serve their fellow citizens in our citizen legislature. But I hope they’ll serve both the special wants and needs of their constituents … and those of all Vermonters, whose needs sometimes differ. It’s important to foster the balance.

Patten: Resolutions For A New Year

Jan 1, 2019
A person runs away on a track that has 2019 on the ground.
leolintang / iStock

Another year rushes by! And I’m reminded of my uncle Bill who was born before indoor plumbing and automobiles. Bill marveled at the change he'd witnessed over 98 years but complained "It all happened too fast."