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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Mathew Brady-Levin Corbin Handy collection / Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg wrote in the introduction to a recent book that she admires a female presidential candidate from the 1880s for her persistence and determination. And no wonder.

For Lisa Sullivan, owner of Bartleby’s Books in Wilmington, there was no choice about whether to rebuild after TS Irene. She and her husband own the building, so they were going to stay.

A recent statewide poll by the Castleton Polling Institute found that Vermonters’ attitudes toward refugee resettlement varied sharply between lifelong residents and those who’ve lived away for at least 10 % of their lives. When lifelong Vermonters were asked whether they would support refugees resettling in their community, about half said they would. Roughly a third were opposed and the rest said it depends or they weren’t sure.

Lange: Nature Deficit

Aug 19, 2016

My first conscious encounter with nature was during the Thirties, in Washington Park in Albany. Walking by the edge of a sloping beach, I spotted a dozen little fish finning around in three inches of water. They were used to grabbing bits of popcorn, and watched me expectantly. I didn’t know what they were, but I desired them acutely.

I grew up in a Pennsylvania train town where I literally got a front row seat on the sad decline of passenger rail travel. Fast forward to the 1980’s when I was a young mother in New England. I wanted my kids to know what railroads were all about, since by then they had largely become relics in children’s books.

Ah, hiking with my dog – just the two of us rambling through the woods to a peak with lovely views. Talk about living the dream!

Even beyond his twenty years as headmaster, Bernier Mayo acted tirelessly to improve his beloved alma mater. And he toiled behind the scenes to strengthen St. Johnsbury.

One memorable moment during the Democratic National Convention seemed to me to have all the elements of a classic New England joke – you know, the kind where a farmer, a flatlander and maybe a chicken encounter one another by the side of the road?

Negative TV ads have become common in political advertising.

Slayton: New Chapters

Aug 15, 2016

Retirement, associated as it is with aging and diminishment, can feel like a time of loss. But in his latest book, Picking Up the Flute, writer John Elder suggests it can also be a season of deepening and enrichment.

Mares: Hail Caesar

Aug 15, 2016

There I was in UVM’s Royall Tyler Theater watching a performance of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar when I became aware that, for me at least, the evening was turning into a mash-up of ideas, memories and politics.

In this most unpredictable of political seasons, gun safety has re-emerged as a major issue. Lawmakers have long been reluctant to debate gun laws on both the state and federal levels, but recent violence and inflammatory political rhetoric have brought the second amendment back to the forefront. So the Brattleboro Museum and Art Center’s main exhibition this summer is “Up in Arms: Taking Stock of Guns,” is surprisingly timely.

Delaney: Evil Acts

Aug 12, 2016

Soon after the Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando, President Obama gave a speech in which he called the violence “an act of evil.”

These are words we rarely hear today. We don’t use them very often because there’s a vagueness about them, an abstract quality with philosophical, religious and perhaps even superstitious overtones.

But listening to the President I was struck that – more than terrorism, racism, homophobia, or madness – those words capture for me the awful reality of the new and sinister malevolence stalking our country today.

I see them all the time: electronic traffic signs warning drivers of safety hazards, road work and weather conditions. With orange letters against a black background they’re so familiar that many of us don’t pay them much attention as we speed along, intent on time and destination. But one with the number of traffic fatalities this year on Vermont roads sticks with me.

What is it about the Olympics? Every four years, I find myself glued to the tube, fascinated by sports I otherwise never pay attention to. I say things like – “The Romanian gymnast got docked on technical points by the Swedish judge… unfair!”

This election season, I did something I’ve done many times in the past for various causes: I made phone calls. Lots of phone calls. And I was reminded that phonebanking can be both energizing and disheartening; you have to be ready for anything.

Hospital report cards come from all kinds of sources these days, online and in news headlines. But the criteria for judgment vary, and scores can be wildly different, even for the same hospital, depending on who’s doing the inspection.

Trying to explain today’s divisiveness, some pundits point to an information revolution permitting us to choose news that mirrors our own beliefs and gives us our own facts. Others suggest the roots of incivility lie in income inequality and its ripple effects.

The explosive sound of the glass ceiling shattering was music to my ears. I’d hoped it would happen in my lifetime. And then it did. Wow!

We waited a long time.

It took one hundred years of protest for women to gain the right to vote with the passage of the nineteenth amendment in 1920. It took another ninety-six years for the nomination of the first woman to become a major party candidate for President of the United States.

When I turned 18, my stepfather drove me to Hyde Park to apply for my draft card. When it came, I looked at it and asked him why I was 4-A unlike all my friends who were 1-A. He explained that I was the sole surviving son of a veteran killed in action and therefore was fit for service but couldn’t be drafted. I burst into tears and hid my draft card from my friends who all bore theirs proudly. A few years later when I was in college and all my friends were drawing lots to see who’d be sent to Viet Nam, I was jubilant and waved my draft card at everyone.