Humanities Commentaries on VPR

Peter A. Gilbert's Look at Life through the Humanities

VPR Commentaries

Peter AGilbert

VHC’s Executive Director Peter Gilbert presents commentaries on Vermont Public Radio that examine current and past events from a humanities perspective.

Peter’s commentaries from 2017 and 2016 are listed below. Find older VPR commentaries.

Commentaries from 2017 and 2016

Looking for Meaning

After the shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas that left 26 dead and many wounded, many of us had the same thought: of all places for this to happen – a church, and in the middle of a worship service. One might think a church would provide some shelter from such things.

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What Princeton Needed

These days the needs and priorities of colleges and universities are not always in sync with what some wealthy alumni want to fund. But as Peter Gilbert explains, it’s a trend that’s not exactly new.

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Celestial Visions

The viewing of the solar eclipse reminded Peter Gilbert of his experience viewing Halley’s Comet in January 1986, and the finite nature of life.

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Questions and Answers

When “Enquiring minds want to know” curious things can happen. Peter Gilbert reflects on what it’s like to be on the front line when people go in search of knowledge.

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Reading Frederick Douglass

On July 5, 1852, Frederick Douglass, former slave, eminent abolitionist, and perhaps America’s greatest orator, spoke near his home in Rochester, New York at an event commemorating the Declaration of Independence.

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The Oldest Book in the Americas

Superlatives are rare. The biggest, the best, the oldest – they are unique: there’s only one “biggest.” Superlatives are particularly noteworthy when they relate to something important, something people value, and perhaps collect, like books.

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Love And Need

The frequent news stories these days about the countless hungry and homeless strangers seeking shelter and security, both in Europe and the US, raise the same issues that are raised in Robert Frost’s famous poem “Two Tramps in Mud Time.”

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Information And Intelligence

Two prominent science journals both recently published articles on the same subject, the importance of science and expertise in charting public policy. One of them was written by one of Vermont’s most brilliant and eminent neighbors.

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Investing In Cultural Wealth

The arts and humanities are a large part of our nation’s cultural wealth, part of what makes us a great country. Our nation cannot afford to dispense with the humanities and the arts, especially to save a tiny fraction of the federal budget.

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Eddie Would Go

Every year, between December 1st and the end of February, if winter storms in the North Pacific send really big waves on to the North Shore of the Hawaiian island of Oahu, then an invitational big wave surfing competition may happen.

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Choosing Optimism

The 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor has reminded Peter Gilbert of the importance of trying to be optimistic even at the darkest moments.

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A Thin Veneer Of Reason And Law

Felix Frankfurter was a close advisor and friend to President Franklin Roosevelt, who, in 1939, appointed him to the Supreme Court, where he served for 23 years. A brilliant jurist, Frankfurter was a founder of the American Civil Liberties Union and a strong advocate of judicial restraint.

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Bipartisan Election Night Party

My brother, Ken, lives in Dallas. He met his future wife at an election night party forty years ago, the night Jimmy Carter defeated Gerald Ford. And every four years since then, they’ve hosted a bipartisan election night party.

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To Autumn

Two hundred years ago tomorrow, the British poet John Keats wrote one of the greatest short poems in the English language. It’s about autumn, something that Vermonters treasure, as do the countless tree-peepers who visit the state every fall.

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Biographical Truth

Ralph Waldo Emerson famously said that “All biography is autobiography.” It’s usually taken to mean that in writing about other people, biographers reveal something about themselves – by the perspective they take, the elements of the person’s life that they focus on, and the interpretations they make of the person’s life.

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John Milton and Bob Dylan

I once heard Sir Christopher Ricks observe that a scholar is someone who tells you something you didn’t know, and a critic is someone who tells you something you hadn’t noticed.

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The Pulitzer Final Four

This is the hundredth anniversary year of the Pulitzer Prizes, and to celebrate the Pulitzer Prizes Board and state humanities councils across the country, including the Vermont Humanities Council, are collaborating with countless programs and projects.

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The World Is Watching

It was August 1968, and Chicago was hosting the Democratic National Convention, an open convention without a clear nominee. I was a freshman in a suburban high school forty miles outside Chicago.

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Shakespeare in America

2016 is the four hundredth anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death – a milestone being marked in myriad ways, including with copies of Shakespeare’s First Folio, the 1623 published collection of Shakespeare’s plays, touring the United States.

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I Was Thinking...

This collection of more than sixty lively essays adapted from Peter’s commentaries on Vermont Public Radio is a perfect book for anyone who enjoys ideas and loves learning.