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

As one who’s never served in political office, I often remind myself how easy it is to opine with impunity about what’s right and wrong with our state and national governance systems – a reminder that opinion writing demands respect, objectivity, and a healthy dose of humility.


Winter’s sudden arrival this fall marked the end of a large road paving project in my town. The resurfacing of a two-lane state highway that stretches forty-two miles from Rockingham to just south of Rutland is a busy corridor, and the project that slowed traffic to a halt all spring and summer led to more than a few frayed nerves.

Marseda Halilaj

Like it or not, I’m a Vermonter, born and raised. But despite considering Vermont my home, when I meet people for the first time, their most typical reaction is the quintessential question “where are you really from?”, a surprised comment about my English, or stares that have become a discomforting norm – all of which means that I navigate Vermont in a way my peers don’t.

Vermont Department of Forests, Parks & Recreation

It was the first day of winter and the sun was out. My wife Susan and I took our dog Noel for a hike up Mt. Philo. Noel, ever the social animal, kept going up to one couple, and that opened up a conversation. When I heard their accent, I asked if they were from Montreal. No, they said, they were Hungarians visiting from New York.


Stories, as much as anything, root us to place. We’re narrative creatures, after all. So when The Brattleboro Words Project came to my attention more than a year ago, I was all in. Since then, historians have given fascinating talks about literary luminaries in the Brattleboro area.


In his new film the acclaimed New Zealand film director and producer of Lord of the Rings, Sir Peter Jackson, has all but raised the dead – by means of one hundred hours of film and six hundred hours of interviews with scores of survivors, preserved by the Imperial War Museum in London. For Jackson, it was in part a cinematic labor of love in tribute to his grandfather - a professional soldier who fought through the entire war.


In anticipation of heading into the last year of our second decade of the second millennium I asked my friends on social media to share with me their hopes, fears, and aspirations for 2019.

Daniel Ochoa de Olza / AP

The Shutdown is forcing both sides to embrace possible solutions to a problem neither particularly wants to solve. President Trump demands a border wall - what some have called a “toy” - a big display that won’t address the major challenges of immigration and border security. Democrats claim to respond with tools: targeted programs that might ease at least some of the problems along our southern border.

Moats: Time

Jan 7, 2019
William L. Moats Sr. in upper left corner, by means of a timer

The start of a new year is a marker causing us to think about where we are in a life span that may end up giving us 70, or 80, or 90 years.

Vermont Statehouse in winter, December 2016.
Meg Malone / VPR/file

Brian Mulroney was prime minister of Canada during the same years as the first George Bush was our President. The two leaders became good friends and remained so.

Slayton: The New Ceres

Jan 3, 2019
Jeb Wallace-Brodeur

The beautiful new statue of Agriculture, better known as Ceres, is finally back atop the dome of the Vermont State House, and she looks just great. She’s been up there for a while now and it still gives me a warm and happy glow every time I go past the State House and see her.

The House chamber of the Vermont Legislature
Angela Evancie / VPR/file

I’m grateful Vermonters are willing to serve their fellow citizens in our citizen legislature. But I hope they’ll serve both the special wants and needs of their constituents … and those of all Vermonters, whose needs sometimes differ. It’s important to foster the balance.

Patten: Resolutions For A New Year

Jan 1, 2019
A person runs away on a track that has 2019 on the ground.
leolintang / iStock

Another year rushes by! And I’m reminded of my uncle Bill who was born before indoor plumbing and automobiles. Bill marveled at the change he'd witnessed over 98 years but complained "It all happened too fast."

Odum: Stan Lee

Dec 31, 2018
Stan Lee sits to sign autographs at Boston Comic Con in August 2017.
Michael Dwyer / Associated Press

2018 sure had its ups and downs, and I’m tempted to say mainly downs. But one particular “down” that stands out for me was the passing of comic book and pop culture icon Stan Lee.

John Vogel

About a year ago, Governor Phil Scott announced the sale of revenue bonds, representing the single, largest investment in affordable housing in Vermont’s history.

Kent McFarland

You may remember how on road trips the windshield used to become so plastered with bug bodies that it was hard to see through it - or how hundreds of fireflies seemed to be blinking from every patch of grass on warm summer evenings.


Many of us look to the holiday season as an antidote to the strife and struggle in the world around us, perhaps tuning out divisive politics – or at least trying to avoid discussing the latest tweets or subpoenas at family gatherings.

A collection of wrapped holiday gift boxes with bows.
Milkos / iStock

A Yankee Swap can bring out the worst in people. Tact and generosity go out the window; bald greed and selfishness climb gleefully in.

Mary Fafard

Fletcher – the town where I live - doesn’t have a post office. So even though I pay taxes and vote here, and my kids went to school here, my mail comes from Jeffersonville in the Town of Cambridge.

Gordon Miller

Santa Claus has already visited Johnson, Vermont. You may have missed this news, but scores of his followers did not, braving single digit temperatures and work weary parents on the first Friday night of December to meet the man himself. Some children even hand-delivered their lists so he wouldn’t forget.