Commentary Series

Mon-Thurs 6:45 a.m. and 5:50 p.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.

Send Feedback | Guidelines To Submit A Commentary

Mizina / iStock

This winter, college-bound students applied for scholarships administered by Vermont Student Assistance Corporation, including the Nordic Educational Scholarship of the Vermont Business Roundtable. This year, one hundred and thirty nine applications were received with forty five finalists making it to our selection committee. These scholarships support students seeking a certificate or two-year technical degree.

Stevanovicigor / iStock

Over the course of what’s now adding up to nearly a lifetime in Vermont, I’ve enjoyed being active in various cultural, civic and business organizations, including the ACLU. And at times, I’ve been called upon to advise state leaders from college presidents to corrections officials. So it’s from this perspective that I say with considerable confidence that it’s time to close the South Burlington Women’s facility, or CRCF.

Emily Alfin Johnson / VPR file

As a Latina Vermonter, I can relate to the super visibility Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has attracted since she became a congresswoman. The awkward images, memes and constant coverage suggest that her youth, beauty, intelligence, and perhaps most of all, her ethnicity, are the wrong combination for the media. Some of the more benign insults compare her to “an adorable 5-year old who needs to shut up,” or call her disrespectful nicknames like “o’socialist” and “o’crazy o.”

Abigail Mnookin

Last Friday morning, my family stood in front of Brattleboro Union High School for one of the local youth-led climate strikes. This strike drew a crowd of all ages, including grandparents and babies in arms, but teens were at the helm, chanting into the megaphone “No more coal! No more oil! Keep the carbon in the soil!”

Katie Titterton

It’s not uncommon for my infant son to get handed around a boardroom table. I’m self-employed and work from home, so I usually schlep him along to meetings where I know he’s welcome.

Suzanne Spencer Rendahl

When my prematurely-born daughter approached the end of her seven week stay in Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center’s Intensive Care Nursery, the hospital informed me that before discharge, I needed to watch several videos about vaccinations – including one with footage of an un-vaccinated child with whooping cough struggling to breathe as his distraught parents looked on.

Tom Rogers

To the great surprise of my family, about eight years ago I took up fly fishing. As the new Agency of Natural Resources Secretary, I thought first-hand experience hunting and fishing would let me better serve the Fish and Wildlife Department and its constituents. I quickly discovered how wonderful it is to stand in the middle of a river, listen to the running water, watch for the flash of fish, and cast a line in hopes of a catch. I was hooked!

Torti: The Need To Listen

Mar 11, 2019
VCWA staff

Last month I attended a meeting that could have been ruined by the type of finger pointing and adolescent truculence that characterizes most of our political debate and diplomacy these days. But remarkably, what transpired should serve as the model for civil discourse between people holding opposing world views.

Keith Oppenheim

I recently went with my family to a dark, icy street in the Old North End of Burlington, where we found ourselves walking up a couple flights of back porch steps into the home of someone we didn’t even know - into a surprisingly beautiful space, an attic loft filled with glittery lights, a piano, a guitar and a microphone. This was Meg’s place. It was her birthday party – and a house concert.

Mark Bushnell

Like our physical bodies, our body politic needs regular exercise to stay healthy. So put on your workout gear for Town Meeting. More than 60 percent of Vermonters live in small towns, and about two-thirds of our towns’ budgets are deliberated, amended, and voted on from the floor of town meetings. We’ll also elect officers, discuss local issues, and if we’re lucky, have some pie.

Watts: Vape Tax

Mar 5, 2019
Christa Guzman / The Vermont Cynic

Vaping as it’s called - the act of sucking in flavored water vapor laced with nicotine - has become quite the rage among young people. As I walk across campus, little puffs linger in the air as students’ draw at their e-cigarette devices.

Mary McCallum

Because I’m a writer and a former librarian, a friend once gave me a refrigerator magnet that says in bold print, I Am Silently Judging Your Grammar. But I believe that language is a living thing with the power to connect us all through meaning and understanding. And in today’s world, that’s no small thing.

Town meeting 2018 in Calais
John Dillon / VPR

When I was a reporter, I loved covering small communities in which a passion for causes is still possible – and visible; in which sustained dedication over individual lifetimes sometimes earns success – even respect from those who may disagree with the cause itself.

Moats: Faces

Feb 26, 2019
BrAt_PeKaChU / iStock

In Vermont, candidates depend less on television to establish themselves in the minds of voters. Here we’re more likely to meet them in person and to size them up as actual people. And this connection gives a comforting sense that, at least in Vermont, democracy still works. But these days with media everywhere, most of the country seems newly vulnerable to the power of the image to overshadow the subtlety and nuance of actual reality.

Stephanie Greene

With the senate passing a bill (S84) exempting almost a quarter of Vermont vehicles from emissions testing, we have to tighten up other sources of emissions – including one that might be less painful fix. We have a no-idling law in Vermont designed to prevent those emissions from being released into our already overburdened atmosphere. But it turns out the law is pretty forgiving.

A wide shot view of the crowd gathered at the Women's March Vermont, with snow on the ground, taken from the Vermont Statehouse steps.
Bayla Metzger / VPR

There is a new women’s movement in America. The first indicator was the Women’s March two years ago when women took to the streets in record numbers and demanded that their voices be heard.

Ted Levin

Many years ago, I remember reading an interview with the late Edward Abbey, in which he said he was willing to rail about our abuses of nature half the time, if he could be lost in the desert, alone, the other half.

Taylor Jewell / Invision/AP

Documentaries stood out at this year’s Sundance Festival – like John Chester’s Biggest Little Farm, with its detailed look at the withering challenges faced by a Santa Monica couple who flees Los Angeles to start an organic farm in the California countryside. Confronted by drought, wildfire, ravenous coyotes, toxic algae and a sick pig, they can only choose to endure. Many Vermonters could relate.

Ben Mirkin

I live in the Northeast Kingdom. But my daily writing job takes me south to Hanover, where I have a tiny condo. Especially on stormy winter days, the hour-long, white-knuckle commute makes it tempting to move to the Upper Valley altogether. But, in addition to dear friends and family, the Kingdom has cultural assets you can’t find anywhere else.

Courtesy of UVM

Growing up in the fifties in Morrisville at People’s Academy, our spring event was 'Kake Walk' - a parody of a racist amusement staged by slaves for their owners. The owners, king and queen of Kake Walk, sat in large chairs and watched as slaves high-stepped towards them in pairs with their arms pitched up and back. The grand prize for the highest steppers was a kind of “plantation cake.” Hence the name Kake Walk for an event that persisted in Vermont in my childhood and at UVM until 1969.

Pages