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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Coffin: 1917

Jun 9, 2017

 From a wall in my Montpelier home, the kindly oval-framed faces of two great-grandparents and their two sons have watched me down the years.

From as early as I can remember, I’ve been an opera buff. I remember sitting in the orchestra section at the Old Metropolitan Opera House on 39th and Broadway and hearing the great mid-century singers. My great-grandmother Selma was having a platonic affair with Caruso. My Aunt Rose hung out with the greats of the time: Gueden, Schwarzkopf, Kunz, and Jerome Hines. My fervid childish imagination lit up at the live passion, violence, and madness on stage that made the comics littering Al Melendy’s barbershop in Morrisville seem pale by comparison.

Ram: Leaders Wanted

Jun 8, 2017

Many people across the nation and around the globe paused to honor President John F. Kennedy last week on what would have been his 100th birthday. His sense of duty to all Americans provides inspiration at a time when many of us are longing for more effective political leadership.

By 1787, when they met in Philadelphia, delegates knew they needed to fix or replace the Articles of Confederation. The balance of power between the thirteen States and the Federal Government wasn’t working. Congress couldn’t pay its debts from the Revolutionary War and couldn’t force States to contribute their share.

My husband and I are building our second outdoor pizza oven. Our first one collapsed due to our terrible engineering skills, but this one will be solid. Plus, our friends got used to eating brick oven pizza in our backyard, and now they won’t let us forget it.

It was not unexpected. Still, when President Trump announced that the United States “was getting out” of the Paris Accord, it felt like he was describing an alternate universe, not the world I live in - or one I wish for our children and grandchildren to live in. The United States has become a global outlier, turning up its nose at some one hundred and ninety five other countries who stand by the agreement.

Last fall Soren Hermanson, a beefy, former-vegetable farmer from a small island off of the coast of Denmark came to Vermont to tell the story of Samso – an island that has gone completely renewable.

The word topophilia means love of place, a complex, multilayered emotion that the poems of Mary Oliver and the essays of Aldo Leopold and Edward Abbey awaken without ever having to mention the word. Landscape memories involve a jubilee of sights and sounds, smells and textures of bygone days, which, in my case, are those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer… beach days.

Weis: Beyond Paris

Jun 5, 2017

Abraham Lincoln – a favorite of current day Republicans, Democrats, and even Independent Socialists – once spoke these words: “(L)et it be remembered” our great sixteenth President said, “that… the exultations and mortifications of the present, are but temporary; that the victor shall soon be the vanquished… and that the vanquished this year, may be victor the next.”

Deb Flanders

Marc Chagall’s career spanned almost 100 years and 3 continents. Considered the quintessential Jewish artist of the 20th century, Chagall was a master colorist, dreamer and story teller. And for a few more days – through June 11 – three hundred and forty of his works can be seen at the Musee des Beaux Arts in Montreal.

On an open summit not far from me is an inscription painstakingly carved in stone: Now I Am With You Always.

I love Vermont. I’ve lived here seventy years, and like my father, I’ve turned down opportunities to move away and earn more money. But I don’t trust the Vermont myth of ‘exceptionalism.’

This past weekend we celebrated Memorial Day to honor fallen servicemen and women. I myself am daughter of a decorated Vietnam veteran, and while I don’t attend parades, I do pause and reflect on the price our service members pay to preserve our freedoms.

The basketball season’s now down to the seemingly endless NBA playoffs, after the nearly endless season. But I look back on another winter of Vermont basketball, the Barre Aud, other high school matchups, and college games at Middlebury, St. Michaels, Norwich, UVM. I’m a junkie.

Governor Scott and Democratic legislative leaders are at loggerheads over realizing $75 million in savings from switching the state’s teachers to a health insurance plan compliant with the Affordable Care Act, also known as ObamaCare.

Republicans students at Middlebury College are unhappy about what they see as the lenient discipline administered to students who disrupted a speech earlier this year by author Charles Murray.

Today we observe Memorial Day and I use the word “observe” with intention. We might easily say that we’re “celebrating” Memorial Day and, indeed, that may seem more appropriate. This is the start of summer, the first lifting of the dusty, gritty grill lid, the washing of the deck chairs, the crack of bat on ball, the first dipping of toes in chill mountain streams, the move outside for the duration of the season. After a Vermont winter, it’s certainly something to be celebrated.

In the hills of Entebbe, the sound of children’s voices fill a courtyard between a compound of small buildings. Now and then, a lanky man with a short pony-tail emerges. He is Robert Fleming, the founder of Malayaka House, currently home to 39 children, ranging in age from infancy to late teens.

Winston Churchill once quipped that, You can always count on Americans to do the right thing - after they've tried everything else.

For about an hour, I was one of 30 audience members sitting in a ring on the Main Stage of Burlington’s Flynn Center while four strong, agile and graceful women danced in and around us. It was a remarkable performance - one of four shows by Adele Myers and Dancers.

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