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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I recently sat on the edge of my seat in a packed house listening to two icons of resistance speak about the state of politics, environment and the media. Vermont’s own Bill McKibben, who jump started what’s now a global movement to fight climate change, shared the stage of Randolph’s Chandler Center for the Arts with advocacy journalist and investigative reporter Amy Goodman.

I understand, in theory, why the State Board of Education wants more watchdog power over independent schools that educate some students at state expense, if there are no public schools available in those communities. I also get why some private school parents are outraged. But not all the media coverage I’ve seen accurately explains the proposed rule changes.

Vermonters count on the Environmental Protection Agency to help us protect public health and our environment. Who is in charge can make a big difference.

I’ve recently spent some time in New York City welcoming our newborn grandson, tending his three little sisters, cooking and trying to reassure their parents that everything really was going to be okay.

Watts: The Gas Tax

Jan 17, 2017

When my parents moved to Putney in 1964, we bought our gasoline at the General Store. The gasoline cost 32 cents a gallon – which, when you adjust for inflation – is about $2.50 today. In fact, when I stopped to buy gas just recently, the cost was $2.30 cents – actually cheaper today, in real terms, than fifty years ago.

I missed the opening day of the legislature and the inauguration of our new Governor. But I caught much of it on radio and read more in the dailies.

Back in 2012, our own (elected) Tweeter-in-Chief objected to something – I no longer remember what, exactly - by saying “We can’t let this happen. We should march on Washington... Our nation is divided.”

And while we may not share many opinions, I think that’s a great idea. So this Saturday, I will march – as one of many others in the Women’s March on Washington.

The start of the legislative session has always felt to me like a change of season. And with that change comes both trepidation and excitement over what new laws and policies might be adopted in the coming months. While many of us are focused on the transition of power in Washington DC and the constitutional implications of that transfer, I’m just as fascinated by the transition underway here.

I recently visited the Civil Rights Museum in Tennessee. Standing on the site where Dr. King was assassinated, I found it strange to think of his legacy as belonging in a 'museum.’ We still face intense injustice and erosion of liberties in this New Year of 2017. And it remains a challenge to avoid letting insecurity and ignorance calcify our spirit. A case in point is the controversy over Mayor Chris Louras’ plan to resettle 100 Syrian refugees in Rutland.

While awaiting the inauguration of a new president who admits he’s never read a presidential biography and hasn’t the time or interest to read anything more complex than popular magazines, I’ve been feeling anxious about what this might signal about the future of reading - historically one of America’s favorite pastimes.

I love the live transmissions from the Metropolitan Opera. Usually, it’s the music and spectacle that carries the story, which – face it – can be pretty far fetched. But recently, these operatic stories are reminding me of current U.S. politics.

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.

At inaugurations history turns a page. Think of mobs overrunning the White House exuberantly honoring Andrew Jackson; of Franklin Roosevelt rallying Americans to fight “fear itself”; of celebrating our first black president.

And then there was 1921.

You didn’t hear a lot from me in 2016.

My wife and I were returning home from Florida on Delta Airlines when something happened that pales in comparison with events like the baggage claim shootings in Fort Lauderdale - but still I find myself thinking about it.


The thing I worried most about before my son was born was how a man without a father could become a caregiver to an infant. 

Most people probably don’t remember George Lincoln Rockwell, who after World War II was the founder of the American Nazi Party. He used to strut and preen in a Nazi uniform, and in the mid-’60s, he spoke at the university where I was a student. He praised Hitler, denied the Holocaust, and promised that if he became president, he’d execute Jews he considered traitors.

Nadworny: Food Talk

Jan 6, 2017

I was looking for a hopeful story to start the New Year, when I stumbled across a program called Health Care Shares at a community meeting at the UVM Medical Center. The program itself has been around for a while, but recently, it’s taken its mission to help Vermonters eat and live healthier up a notch.

Every year, between December 1st and the end of February, if winter storms in the North Pacific send really big waves on to the North Shore of the Hawaiian island of Oahu, then an invitational big wave surfing competition may happen. But only if the waves are at least thirty and forty feet high when measured from the bottom of the trough in front of the wave to the wave’s peak.

By now the “I voted” stickers have fallen off the grave of Susan B. Anthony in Rochester, New York. Yes, on election day, November 8th, many voted for a woman candidate for president and then lined up to place their stickers on or near Anthony’s grave. Of course the famous suffragist never lived long enough to vote herself.