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.

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Kingdom County Productions

The first time I saw Rip Torn, he was wearing flippers, a facemask and snorkel. I'd written to him in January 1992 – and sent him the script for my first feature film, Where the Rivers Flow North. I said I thought he'd be great as Noel Lord, an aging Vermont logger struggling to accept the extinction of his way of life. But for six months, there was no reply.

David Smith

Sometimes, you just know you're having a life-changing experience. In my case, it was a chance in early July to teach Russian college students about media in the U.S.A. It all started when a Vermont-based company, Project Harmony International, organized an exchange program through the U.S. Embassy in Moscow.

Spencer Rendahl

My nine year old son plays soccer for his Plainfield, New Hampshire team, which makes me a soccer mom by default, even though I've never played the game myself. Normally we try to limit screen time during school vacation and spend our free time swimming, kayaking and hiking all over the Green and White mountains, but this year we made an exception for the World Cup.

The Vermont Statehouse with its golden dome.
Ric Cengeri / VPR File

Walt Garner teaches fifth through eighth grade English at Tunbridge Central School, while Barbara Drufovka teaches humanities at Woodstock Middle School. This spring, both teachers took groups of students to visit the Vermont Statehouse to see the Legislature in session.

Watts: One Less Car

Jul 10, 2019
Glenn Russell

I live on a country road in Hinesburg, with a walkability score of zero - meaning there is nothing within walking distance of my house, except a very nice walk - no stores, jobs, or other necessities of daily life. Despite our remote location, we’re a two-driver, one car family. And it works. During the week, my routine varies between pedaling the twelve miles to my job in Burlington or riding into the village, where I mount my bike on a public bus heading into the city.


Norwich is a talkative community – on sidewalks, in the Post Office, around kitchen tables, and especially on the town’s email listserve, where thorny issues get thrashed out in public on a daily basis. This summer, what’s got people riled up is a plan to install two sets of solar-powered blinking lights that pedestrians could activate with buttons, at busy cross walks. They’d be the only traffic lights in town.

Ram: Girls State

Jun 27, 2019
Eric Covey

There's a summer leadership and government-in-action learning program for high school juniors sponsored by the American Legion Auxiliary in which young women become knowledgeable in the practice of freedom, democracy and citizenship. It's called Girls State and there’s a similar program for boys. I understand both are galvanizing, and I've met many legislators and leaders who named Boys or Girls State as a positive influence in their development.

Hannah Hoffman

I grew up VT style, where the virtues of patience were constantly extolled. We waited for recess, we waited for snow, we waited Santa, and we waited for summer. 'It's something to look forward to,' was the cheerful and infuriating parental explanation.


Over time, broadcast television has lost some of its power. Except for the Super Bowl, we simply don't gather in front of our TV sets like we used to. But debates are still a big deal. In 2016, one of the Trump-Clinton debates was viewed by more than 80 million people – a new record.


We've known about climate change for some time now. Yet we still can't seem to address the issue effectively. Witness the group of young protestors who disrupted the Vermont House this spring, in an effort to spur our representatives to greater action. The young are restless, as well we should all be. Turns out these last twelve months in the U.S. were the wettest on record, with floods plaguing numerous areas of the country.

Barbara Hummel

I took up swimming to get my body in shape, and only later discovered that it would also exercise my mind. I struggle with anxiety and depression, and exercise is known to lift moods by releasing endorphins in the body. Whether I'm ruminating over an issue in my family, puzzling through a conundrum with work, or worrying about the past, a swim almost always helps.

Levin: Naming Honors

Jun 19, 2019

At the top of my recommended summer reading list is a book called Mrs. Moreau's Warbler: How Birds Got Their Names, by Stephen Moss. For a life-long naturalist like me, it's a treasure trove of linguistic history and trivia.


In 1787, Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James Madison wrote a series of articles called the Federalist Papers in order to persuade citizens in the newly formed United States to adopt the U.S. Constitution. Madison argued passionately that adopting the Constitution would protect local citizens from tyranny, by restricting the role of the Federal Government.

Bill Mares

While co-authoring a recent book about Vermont and presidential politics, I come up with an idea that could neatly shorten the Democratic selection process for 2020 – and it merely involves a simple change in the nominating procedure. It would mean over-turning 200 plus years of practice, but we're not talking about amending the Constitution here.

Glenn Russell

One of the most important bills that passed this session - S-149 – is probably one you never heard of. It's the new law that sets out guidelines for testing autonomous or driverless vehicles.

The Vermont Historical Society

In summer, our road up Jewell Hill fits the name. It's a gem of a path running along a meadow – and to my eye, it's much more attractive than any strip of blacktop. But last winter, for a time I literally couldn't get home. The nasty brew of snow, ice, slush, and mud was too much for my trusty all-wheel drive car. At times even the plow couldn't make it up to our driveway.


When I fly into Vermont I enjoy having a birds-eye view of the landscape. We can learn a lot about the health of the environment from that height. But, this May when I looked out the window, I was alarmed. From thousands of feet up, it was easy to see that we’ve a massive amount of work ahead of us if we're serious about cleaning up Lake Champlain.

Two rows of people stand together while one holds a plaque.

Vermont's mountains were in tough shape. Delicate ecological areas like the arctic-alpine zones on Mansfield and Camel's Hump were being pounded by tens of thousands of Vibram-soled boots or devastated by indiscriminate camping and fires. Fifty years ago, traffic on major summits increased 30% every year as eager backpackers overran popular campsites up and down Vermont's Long Trail.

Bex Taylor / Flickr

I'll never forget a piece of graffiti that was prominent in downtown Brattleboro when I first moved here. It must have been considered art and not an eye sore, because no town or state official ever took it down. It said 'ROOT FOR THE UNDERDOG' - in letters six feet tall.

Bobbie Lanahan

Roz Payne was fearless. And she made a difference. In fact, much of the culture we value in Vermont today was influenced by her passions. She contributed to the founding of the Onion River Co-op, now Burlington’s City Market and helped organize the People's Free Clinic, now the Community Health Center. And both, in turn, have inspired similar community-based assets throughout our region.