Commentary Series

Mary McCallum

When my aging terrier started slowing down last year, I took it in stride. She was twelve, and according to an online calculator, old enough to collect doggie Social Security. But just one year later, I knew she’d hiked her last Vermont mountain.

James Cumming

Browsing in my favorite social change bookstore, I overheard two customers talking. One asked, ‘Have we ever had a more racist president than this one?’ And the other replied, 'Maybe Andrew Johnson?'


We often hear state leaders lamenting the so-called brain drain – meaning young people who move away - and the burden of caring for the Medicare crowd. Our demographics are a problem, they say, while credit agencies insist that in order to keep Vermont’s credit rating high, we need a bigger, younger population to spur economic growth.

Ram: Countries Of Origin

Jul 23, 2019
Taken in 2010 by Kesha Ram

For many Americans, where we came from is both a source of great pride and pain. My own family fled the city of Lahore in 1949 with just the clothes on their backs, leaving behind the land that my great great grandfather helped build. During the Partition of India, the border moved ten miles past Lahore, making it a part of the new Muslim nation of Pakistan.

Jeb Wallace-Brodeur

I've been reading Robert Caro's latest book, Working, detailing how he researched and wrote his magisterial, vividly detailed biographies of Robert Moses and Lyndon Johnson. Caro began his career as a newspaper reporter. Though his books are historical biographies, his methods are investigative journalism at its very best: deep research into important, often obscure documents, interviewing people who know - both the powerful and the powerless - anyone who can show readers what is actually going on. And finally, clear writing that opens readers'eyes.

Housing Vermont

Trying to rent an apartment in Vermont can be frustrating, given the shortage of apartments and the high monthly rents. And once people discover how expensive housing in Vermont has become, some potential employees turn down otherwise attractive, job offers. Representative Peter Welch has joined with a number of Democratic and Republican colleagues to co-sponsor a bill that aims to increase the Low Income Housing Tax Credit or LIHTC by 50%.

Moats: Growing Vermont

Jul 17, 2019
William Moats Sr.

Most Vermonters know by now that ours is the second oldest population of all the states — after Maine's — and the need to keep young people here and attract new ones is widely understood and accepted. We're also a small state where growth is relatively slow, opportunity not boundless and housing hard to come by. In addition, our rural character makes a lot of people wary of unchecked sprawl, and so people here often view economic growth as a mixed blessing.

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.

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.