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.
A West Coast friend – and Presbyterian pastor - blogged a shocking holiday development recently: someone came by his house and asked permission to bring a group of carolers to his front porch to sing the next evening.
That inspired my friend to wonder if our society has gone so downhill that now people need to get permission in advance for caroling. I replied that if that’s indeed the case, I think it’s fantastic.
The holiday season provides us with moments of warmth that we carry into the long winter. It’s a time to appreciate loved ones, summon generosity, and connect with our communities, including our retail businesses and non-profits. I spent a recent weekend at the Burklyn Holiday Market in St. Johnsbury, where local artists and specialty food producers sell their hand-made wares and, just as often, take time to catch up with neighbors who may have gotten lost in the overheated hustle of our busy lives.
In December 1863, exactly a hundred fifty years ago, The Atlantic published a short story by Edward Everett Hale, the nephew of Edward Everett, the distinguished orator whose two-hour speech preceded Lincoln's two-minute masterpiece, the Gettysburg Address. The story proved immensely popular in the North.
The interim agreement between Iran and the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council – The United States, Russia, China, Britain and France, plus Germany – has been under attack this week in the American Congress.
Let’s start with the “real vs. fake Christmas tree” debate. Turns out, real trees are the better bet. That’s because artificial ones are usually made with PVC, a non-biodegradable, petroleum-derived plastic.
What’s more, 85% of the fake trees sold in North America are manufactured in China, so they use lots of fossil fuel to get here. Even worse, producing PVCs generates carcinogens.
And fake trees can also shed lead-laced dust. So I’ll definitely stick with the natural alternative.
The history of child rearing is littered with carrots and sticks. I used to think the idea of putting coal in someone’s stocking must have come from our fun loving Germanic forebears, but I was wrong.
Its origin is Sicilian, from the legend of La Befana, an old lady who, seeing the bright star in the sky, sets out to find the baby Jesus with some toys as gifts. Because she goes down chimneys looking for the Christ child, she’s covered in soot. She never does find Jesus, but wanders the world looking, bestowing little presents and coal en route.
Between December 14 and January 5, volunteers from the National Audubon Society will conduct their annual one-day Christmas bird counts. The practice goes back 113 years. Frank Chapman, an ornithologist, started the count in 1900 to record the effects of industry, large-scale-farming, and logging on bird populations.
The story of Nelson Mandela was one that accompanied my childhood. His dream of freedom and democracy echoed in the rooms and conversations of our family life.
So in 1997, a year after I had graduated from McGill University, I jumped at the chance to be a part of the building of the New South Africa, three years into Mandela’s presidency. I felt my family’s history was intertwined with the country and I wanted to be a part of its renewal, I wanted to help. I went to South Africa and worked in the townships over the course of two years.
Last week, the Air Force announced that Burlington would be the host Air National Guard base for the controversial F-35 jet aircraft .What struck me was the pep rally atmosphere and the overwhelming support of Vermont’s top elected officials.
The economic benefits of getting the F-35s are pretty clear. Basing the new jets here essentially ensures 1,100 Air Guard jobs for another 50 years. There is also the ancillary support for Burlington International Airport. And the military presence helps keep Vermont's economy diversified, which is its ace in the hole.