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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There I was, among a dozen people invited last week to attend a national security presentation by a group preparing to brief security officials in Washington DC. We’d been invited to the presentation to ask questions, offer guidance on the content and style of the briefing prior to their Washington appearance.

The world premiere coming into its final weekend at Northern Stage, in White River Junction, is called Trick or Treat, and it’s an emotional roller coaster ride. Playwright Jack Neary gives us a working class family trying to hold itself together in Lowell, Massachusetts. For years, they’ve been keeping dark secrets from each other, and from the rest of the town.

A recent web headline read, ‘Trump sacking acting Attorney General raises new questions about his respect for the rule of law.’ And while most people might be most interested in the politics behind the headline, my attention went straight to the last three words: Rule of Law - an intrinsically moral notion and legal concept thought to symbolize an enlightened, civilized and stable society.

I like to take in the news with a critical eye, and can understand why some people don’t trust the media. After all, these days the news is less Walter Cronkite and more Bill O’Reilly than it used to be - with more variety and partisanship in news reporting than ever before.

I’ve attended a number of events recently dealing with Vermont business or entrepreneurship or growth. Governor Scott, like most governors before him, sees economic development as his critical issue. But time and again, we seem to have trouble moving the needle forward in a meaningful way. So I’ve been thinking about what our unique differentiator is when it comes to business, and life, here in Vermont.

President Trump’s recent immigration restrictions may be an irrational and perhaps unconstitutional response to an imaginary threat, but they’re certainly consistent with our history. Lady Liberty may lift her lamp beside the golden door but too often that door’s been slammed shut.

Let me start by saying that “ignorance” is a meaningless word. It’s a judgment that lacks any clarity. I grew up among many undereducated people who had more wisdom and common sense than later friends who graduated from Ivy League schools and, forty years hence, find themselves lost in a random and complex world.

My father has cultivated some wonderful friendships in his adopted hometown of Rockport, Massachusetts, but one group of friends stands out for their devotion, constancy and punctuality.

On Martin Luther King Junior’s birthday, the Brattleboro Literary Festival organized a Writers Resist event in solidarity with a nationwide effort spearheaded by PEN America to “re-inaugurate” democracy. Seventeen local authors spoke about their belief in “art and artists’ power and responsibility to resist.” My mother, Wendy Mnookin, and I attended.

In this session of the legislature, lawmakers have the chance to help student journalism thrive in Vermont.

Robert Frost, poet, Vermonter, and sometime farmer, captured the conundrum of walls perhaps better than anyone else, when he wrote, more than a century ago, "something there is that doesn't love a wall."

I’ve recently had a good reason to take an interest in programs designed to improve senior physical and mental well-being - and along the way, perhaps even reduce Medicare costs.

During the first three days of the Korean War, Seoul, South Korea was overrun and devastated. Today it’s a beautiful, thriving city with modern office towers, a world class subway system and a twenty-first century airport. But, just like the United States, South Korea is experiencing the loss of manufacturing jobs – a problem that South Koreans blame on technology and cheap labor from Indonesia.

When my daughter, who has her own infant daughter, mentioned that many local people would be marching in Washington, New York, Boston, Montpelier and Greenfield, Mass., and asked if there were any marches closer, I realized that there weren’t.

In the recent sour exchange between President Trump and U.S. Rep. John Lewis of Georgia, the President actually said that Lewis was “all talk and no action.” And I had to laugh because the life of John Lewis has been all about action.

Writer Zadie Smith has said she sometimes wishes she could go to jail, so she could finally read as much as she wants.

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.

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