294 episodes

The Vermont Conversation is a VTDigger podcast hosted by award-winning journalist David Goodman. It features in-depth interviews about local and national topics with politicians, activists, artists, changemakers and ordinary citizens. The Vermont Conversation is also an hour-long weekly radio program that can be heard on Wednesdays at 1 p.m. on WDEV/Radio Vermont.

The Vermont Conversation with David Goodman VTDigger

    • News
    • 4.2 • 28 Ratings

The Vermont Conversation is a VTDigger podcast hosted by award-winning journalist David Goodman. It features in-depth interviews about local and national topics with politicians, activists, artists, changemakers and ordinary citizens. The Vermont Conversation is also an hour-long weekly radio program that can be heard on Wednesdays at 1 p.m. on WDEV/Radio Vermont.

    Peace activist Jules Rabin on his century of raising hell and raising bread

    Peace activist Jules Rabin on his century of raising hell and raising bread

    Even if you don't know Jules Rabin, there’s a good chance that you have seen him protesting or read one of his many letters to the editor or commentaries (https://vtdigger.org/?s=jules%20rabin&post_tag=jules-rabin) in local publications. Rabin is Vermont’s most tenacious and dedicated peace activist. He celebrated his 100th birthday on April 6 by asking friends to join him in downtown Montpelier to protest Israel's war on Gaza.Rabin grew up in Boston, the youngest of five children. His father worked in a junkyard sorting metal and the family struggled to get by. His experience living in poverty in a working class community during the Depression made him a lifelong crusader for social justice.  Rabin attended the Boston Latin School, then went on to get a bachelor’s degree at Harvard and studied anthropology in graduate school at Columbia University. He lived in Greenwich Village where he met his wife Helen. In 1968, he moved to Vermont to teach anthropology at Goddard College, where he taught for nine years. After Goddard downsized and he lost his teaching job, Jules and Helen started Upland Bakers, baking sourdough bread for 35 years in a wood-fired oven that they built. Their bread earned such a loyal following that a local store posted a sign to customers: “To prevent RIOTS and acts of TERRORISM, we ask you to please limit your purchase of Upland French Bread to no more than three loaves.”Jules Rabin attended his first protest at the age of 8, and has protested wars in every generation. From 1960 to 1961, he participated in a 7,000-mile march from San Francisco to Moscow to promote nonviolence and nuclear disarmament. He spent years protesting against the Vietnam War, and in the early 2000s, just as the Iraq War was starting, he could be found in a weekly peace vigil in front of the Montpelier Federal Building in a protest that continued uninterrupted for nine years. Rabin, who is Jewish, has long protested Israel's mistreatment of Palestinians.“How could the Nazi genocide of Jews 1933-45 be followed by the Israeli genocide of Palestinians today?” asked Rabin. He held a sign with a similar message at a recent protest. “I feel so strongly that what Israel is doing today to Palestinians so much resembles what Germans did to Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto and everywhere else in Europe and World War II. It's kind of a pitiless wrecking of human flesh.”Jules and Helen Rabin have lived in Marshfield in the same house for 56 years, where they raised their two daughters, Hannah and Nessa. They have three grandchildren.I asked Rabin what keeps him protesting. “It's not that I'm a morbid person always looking for the darkest corner of the room to squat in and be miserable in,” he replied. But he added, “One can't look the other way when something dreadful is going on.”

    • 1 hr 3 min
    Adventurer and author Jan Reynolds on breaking the glass summit

    Adventurer and author Jan Reynolds on breaking the glass summit

    Jan Reynolds just wanted to be “one of the guys.” Growing up as one of seven children on a dairy farm in Middlebury, Reynolds thought nothing of a tough physical challenge. This propelled her to record setting high-altitude adventures in the company of some of the world’s top mountaineers, often as the only woman on expeditions on the highest summits.Reynolds attended the University of Vermont, where she was a top cross-country ski racer and was part of a team that won an NCAA championship. In 1980, Reynolds set the world high altitude skiing record for women when she skied off the summit of 24,757-foot Mustagata Peak in western China. She soared in a hot air balloon at 29,000 feet over Everest (and then crashed) and led the first U.S. women’s biathlon team. Esquire named her its Athlete of the Decade in the 1980s, Ultrasport dubbed her “Indiana Jan,” and she appeared everywhere from the cover of Outside Magazine to the “Today” show to National Geographic.Reynolds (https://www.janreynolds.com/) chronicled her adventures in her book “The Glass Summit: One Woman's Epic Journey Breaking Through.” She writes about her exploits as well as the power and importance of women throughout the world. She has also written and photographed over 20 books mainly documenting vanishing cultures.“All the women in the Amazon territory survive and do everything men do, right? So why do we think a woman cannot live in a triple canopy jungle or at high altitude — the Sherpas and Tibetan women are there — or the Inuit, they have babies in igloos. Think about that: they do everything men do in a frozen environment and they have babies.”Women “can do everything men do. We just have different skills and different approaches.”Reynolds was inducted into the U.S. Ski Hall of Fame (https://skihall.com/hall-of-famers/jan-reynolds/) in 2021 and was inducted into the Vermont Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame in 2008. These days she travels the world photographing and writing about indigenous people for her award-winning children's book series, "Vanishing Cultures." Earlier this winter I skied with Reynolds at Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe, where she still teaches cross-country ski lessons. She showed me a trailside bench with a plaque that honors her and her two sons and led me on a high speed adventure on and off groomed trails through her favorite mountains.“Adventure is where you wish you weren't when you are, and you wish you were when you aren't,” said Reynolds. 

    • 52 min
    Filmmaker Bess O'Brien turns her camera on hunger, poverty and those ‘just getting by’

    Filmmaker Bess O'Brien turns her camera on hunger, poverty and those ‘just getting by’

    Some people make films to entertain or inform. Bess O’Brien makes films to change the world."I'm very committed as a documentary filmmaker to not only make the movie but to try to use the film to create change," the award-winning Vermont filmmaker said. O’Brien's work has raised awareness about vulnerable people and social justice. Her 2013 documentary, “The Hungry Heart,” about the prescription drug crisis in Vermont, sparked a soul-searching conversation about opioids. The following year, Gov. Peter Shumlin dedicated his entire State of the State address to the topic, which received national attention.“Every state in the Union should be so lucky to have Bess O’Brien working for them in support of children and families,” Shumlin said. O’Brein’s 2016 documentary, “All of Me,” focused on the lives of women, girls and boys who have eating disorders. Like many of her films, they were shown in schools and communities throughout the state. Her other films include “Coming Home,” about five people returning to their Vermont communities from prison. And she produced “The Listen Up Project,” an original musical based on the lives of Vermont teens. O’Brien’s is now touring with her latest film, “Just Getting By,” which is about Vermonters struggling with food and housing insecurity. O’Brien has once again put a human face on an issue that is now at the top of the political agenda in Vermont and the country.Bess O’Brien is the founder of Kingdom County Productions with her husband, filmmaker Jay Craven.O’Brien said that she learned from spending time with people in poverty that “it's not only about the scarcity of money and not having enough money or availability of food or housing. It's also just the constant uncertainty of living your life. Am I going to have enough food to feed my family? Can I get to the food shelf? … Am I going to get that apartment that I applied for? This is the fifth apartment I've applied for and all the other ones fell through. Constantly living in that space is really intense and it takes a toll.”O’Brien shines a light on issues that are hiding in plain sight. “Food insecurity is not just about people who are desperately hungry and starving,” she said. Often it’s invisible, including “the parents don't eat breakfast or dinner because they don't have enough food and they give it to their kids instead,” she said. “That is food insecurity. And poverty is not necessarily living in a tent. It can be living in a hotel and not having a place to live because … even if you look for a place there is nowhere to go.”O’Brien’s latest film “is about the scrappiness, the courage, the ingenuity, the incredible forthrightness to get up every day and get through your day and make it work for your family when you have very little.”

    • 53 min
    Legendary activist Tom Hayden on SDS, Chicago 7, climate change and making a difference

    Legendary activist Tom Hayden on SDS, Chicago 7, climate change and making a difference

    This Vermont Conversation originally broadcast in April 2015.Tom Hayden was a leader of the student, civil rights, peace and environmental movements of the 1960s. He went on to serve 18 years in the California legislature. He was a founder of Students for a Democratic Society and was described by the NY Times as “the single greatest figure of the 1960s student movement.” Hayden died in October 2016 at the age of 76.During the Vietnam War, Hayden made controversial trips to Hanoi with his former wife, actress Jane Fonda, to promote peace talks and facilitate the release of American POWs. He helped lead street demonstrations against the war at the 1968 Chicago Democratic Convention, where he was beaten, gassed and arrested twice. Hayden was indicted in 1969 with seven others on conspiracy and incitement charges in what eventually became the Chicago Seven trial, considered one of the leading political trials of the last century (the trial began as the Chicago Eight but became the Chicago Seven when the case against codefendent Bobby Seale, co-founder of the Black Panther Party, was severed from the others). The trial was the subject of the 2020 Hollywood movie, “The Trial of the Chicago Seven,” in which Hayden was played by actor Eddie Redmayne.Hayden was Director of the Peace and Justice Resource Center in Culver City, California, and advised former California Gov. Jerry Brown on renewable energy. He was the author and editor of 20 books.I spoke with Hayden in March 2015 at the University of Michigan Ann Arbor, where Hayden spoke at the 50th anniversary of the first Vietnam War teach in held on a US college campus.I asked Hayden what he was proudest of in his long career of activism. "Living this long and being able to have children and grandchildren, and to observe the spread of participatory democracy and to see — despite all the failures of the left and the lack of organization, the infighting, the sectarianism, the feuds — that wave after wave of young people keep coming," he replied."I'm proudest of the fact that there's some instinct in being human that aspires to greater things than your parents had, a better world than the one that you were born into." 

    • 38 min
    Acclaimed Vermont author Laura Waterman reflects on her life in the mountains and her husband's death

    Acclaimed Vermont author Laura Waterman reflects on her life in the mountains and her husband's death

    Laura Waterman has been described as “mountain royalty.” With her late husband, Guy Waterman, she has written numerous articles and books on the outdoors, including the definitive 900-page classic, “Forest and Crag: A History of Hiking, Trail Blazing, and Adventure in the Northeast Mountains.” The Watermans were pioneering philosophers of wilderness ethics and are often credited as the inspiration for the modern Leave No Trace movement of low-impact camping and hiking.Laura Waterman may seem like an improbable crusader and chronicler of wilderness. She grew up on the campus of the Lawrenceville School, an elite prep school in New Jersey where her father taught English and was a renowned scholar of Emily Dickinson. In the early 1960s, Laura got a job in publishing in New York City, where she met her future husband, Guy, who had been a speechwriter for Presidents Eisenhower, Nixon and Ford and for General Electric. In 1973, the young couple left the big city and became homesteaders on a 27-acre plot of land in East Corinth. Together, they wrote books and were stewards of the Franconia Ridge, home to a spectacular and popular skyline trail in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.In 2000, Laura’s life changed forever when Guy died by suicide. He was 67. Five years later, Laura wrote a memoir, “Losing the Garden: A Story of a Marriage,” in which she tried to make sense of it. But it has taken more than one book for her to understand what happened to Guy, and to her. Now at the age of 84, Laura Waterman has a new book, “Calling Wild Places Home: A Memoir in Essays.”I recently visited Laura Waterman in her log house in East Corinth to talk about her books and her life. Her home is full of pictures of her and Guy in the mountains and living their off-grid Vermont homestead, which they called Barra. It is obvious as we walk around the house that Guy continues to have a strong presence in her life. "I needed to write the second memoir to understand better my role in Guy's suicide," Waterman explains. "I needed that 20 years to live with that and basically grow into the person that I needed to become."Midway through her ninth decade, Laura Waterman is still summiting mountains. "I just feel so fortunate. I'm fortunate to be able to climb mountains, smaller ones. I'm very fortunate to be writing what I'm writing."A note for our listeners and readers: This Vermont Conversation discusses suicide. If you are in crisis or need help for someone else, dial 988 for the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline (formerly known as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline) or text 741741 for the Crisis Text Line.

    • 49 min
    Emma Mulvaney-Stanak on making history as the 1st queer woman elected as Burlington’s mayor

    Emma Mulvaney-Stanak on making history as the 1st queer woman elected as Burlington’s mayor

    On Tuesday, Burlington voters elected Emma Mulvaney-Stanak to be the Queen City’s next mayor. The 43-year-old Progressive/Democrat who grew up in Barre City succeeds Democrat Miro Weinberger, who has been mayor since 2012 and did not run for reelection.Mulvaney-Stanak will be the first woman and the first openly queer person to serve as Burlington’s mayor when she is sworn in on April 1. She is also a state representative from Burlington and has served on the Burlington City Council. She has directed the Vermont Livable Wage Campaign, been an organizer with Vermont-NEA and was chair of the Vermont Progressive Party. She runs a social change strategy consulting business whose clients include labor unions, nonprofits, municipalities and school districts. She lives with her wife and two children in Burlington’s Old North End.Growing up in Vermont, Mulvaney-Stanak said, “I did not see leaders who held identities that I hold. And that really matters because there was a subconscious level where you don't think that's possibly something you can do.”“The historic nature of this race — the fact that after 159 years, we finally have a woman mayor, after 159 years, we finally have an out LGBTQ+ mayor — that really matters,” she said. “And I'm pretty darn sure that I am the first queer mayor in the entire state of Vermont.”"The fact that I am a mom of two small kids, the fact that I am a woman, the fact that I am a queer person, it brings a very different perspective to the decision making table and also the leadership role in the city,” Mulvaney-Stanak said. 

    • 29 min

Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5
28 Ratings

28 Ratings

HeidiInNYC ,

Interesting topics

I like the topics, very informative. Good journalism behind it but seems not enough to bridge the divisions in this country.

bob982vt ,

Nice job covering Vermont and national issues

David does a nice job covering from all and national issues.Civilized conversations were intelligent people. Definitely worth one’s time

TB12 VT ,

One Sided

Interesting topics, but this show is so ridiculously one sided it may as well be propaganda.

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