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

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.

Courtesy of UVM

Known as Kake Walk, one of the highlights of the campus social calendar, it’s been described as “a standard act in minstrel theatre, originated on plantations as a competition among slaves” and UVM now has a digital collection of 231 items documenting it that date from 1895 onward.

Heather Geoffrey / Main Street Arts

Thirty years ago Mary Hepburn saw the need for a town arts center in Saxtons River. And her vision was comprehensive. The arts building would include performance and gallery space, and it would offer education for all levels of arts enthusiasts, from Crayolas to musical theater. Today Main Street Arts – or MSA - owns two buildings.

Porche: Devotion

Feb 14, 2019
Porche

When invited to offer a devotional at the Vermont State Legislature this year, I thought about how lately most every headline I read seems to carry a potentially lethal dose of venom. So I decided to present a love poem to devotion to even up the score a bit.

Ari Markowitz

A lot has changed since Act 250, Vermont’s state land use law, was first passed in 1970. At the time, the legislature and governor worried that the recently completed interstate highway would bring an influx of new residents and second home owners. They believed that unless they created rules to control growth, Vermont’s rural landscape would be destroyed.

Jose Luis Magana / AP

I’m a young, black, cis-gendered man, and when it comes to the issues that impact Black men every day I want to claim a place at the table, too.

Stafford: Time To Tap

Feb 11, 2019
Luke Q. Stafford

Supporting your local economy; it’s a virtue many Vermonters seem to hold dear. So here’s a seasonally-appropriate tip for improving an economy so local, it’s literally in many backyards. 

Cassidy

Teachers, family members, employers - and in fact almost anyone who interacts with other people - have more power than they can imagine, to hurt or to support, and most of the time we’re unaware of the effect we have on others. So I was astonished when a former student contacted me out of the blue to tell me that in going through her father’s papers she’d found reports from when she attended Brattleboro Union High School.

Timothy McQuiston

The first place my wife and I had was a great apartment with an eat-in kitchen, two full baths, washer-dryer, porches, wood stove and even a jetted tub. We were lucky to get it. The place was just sitting empty and no one knew it, including the landlord.

A building on the Green Mountain College campus
Nina Keck / VPR

My private college tuition in 1968 was $2,800, 50 years later it’s $50,000. Meanwhile, state support for public colleges has diminished and educational value has changed both for better and for worse.

Pages