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The Vermont Conversation

The Vermont Conversation

VBSR's The Vermont Conversation hosted by David Goodman, airs live every Wednesday from 1-2 PM on WDEV Radio Vermont. The show features interviews with people who are making a difference locally and nationally in the worlds of socially responsible business, politics, education, the environment and activism, as well as serves as a way to keep current on VBSR's events, policy work and program happenings. Scroll down to listen to recent shows or Tune into WDEV at 1:00 PM every Wednesday!

Join the Conversation! The Vermont Conversation welcomes call-ins at (802) 244-1777 or comments and questions via email. Have a great idea for a show or interest in joining us yourself? Let us know!

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Did you miss an episode? Scroll down to hear the most recent shows. OR, view the archives to see past guests and topics.


April 1: The power of positive thinkingRacial justice after Ferguson

*Declan Coyle has gone from being a priest in the poorest communities of the developing world to preaching about the power of positive thinking to global business leaders and the top-ranked University of Kentucky men’s basketball team. How does positive thinking help businesses succeed and teams win?

Declan Coyle, management consultant and motivational coach, author, The Green Platform

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*More than three people per day were killed by police in America in the last month. The majority of the victims were men of color. What hope is there for progress on racial justice in this deadly environment? How can we shut off the school-to-prison pipeline, where school students are being sent to jail instead of the principal’s office? What are the lessons of Selma, Alabama, for the post-Ferguson America?

Dennis Parker, director, ACLU Racial Justice Program

LIsten Now


March 25: Inequalities: Civil Liberties Under Fire in Vt; Ending Inequality & Poverty

*Does Vermont have a racial profiling problem? Is your privacy at risk? Are your civil liberties being violated by drones, license plate readers, and other new electronic surveillance?

  • Allen Gilbert, executive director of the Vermont chapter of the ACLU, talks about the state of civil liberties in the Green Mountain State

Today, 47 million Americans live in poverty, while middle class incomes are in decline. The top 20 percent now controls 89 percent of all wealth. Can poverty be ended?

  • Scott Myers-Lipton, author of Ending Extreme Inequality: An Economic Bill of Rights to Eliminate Poverty and professor of sociology at San Jose State University

LIsten Now 


March 19: Beyond Austerity: An alternative to budget cuts; Marijuana legalization & a new app to engage citizens

*Is there an alternative to austerity? As the Vermont legislature considers over $100 million in cuts to close a budget gap, One Vermont, a group of social service advocates and businesses, proposes to balance the budget without budget cuts.

  • Jack Hoffman, Public Assets Institute
  • Andrea Cohen, Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility
  • Karen Lafayette, Vermont Low Income Advocacy Council
  • Julie Tessler, Vermont Council of Developmental and Mental Health Services


We talk with the founder of New Grassroots, a new web app that aims to connect legislators with concerned citizens, and advocates of marijuana legalization, who are among those trying out the new approach.

LIsten Now


March 12: Saving Primary CareThe Socrates Cafe: How asking questions builds democracy

*Is primary care endangered? That’s the contention of some who are concerned about the Medicaid cost shift, in which providers make so little money on Medicaid that some health care providers are refusing to treat Medicaid patients altogether. Discussing this and possible solutions:

  • Dr. Joseph Haddock, family practitioner in Williston, Vt.
  • Leslie Nulty, owner of Focal Point Advisory Services in Burlington, Vt.
  • Russ Bennett, owner of Northland Design & Construction, Waitsfield, Vt

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*Christopher Phillips believes that dialogue is good for people and essential for a democratic society. He travels the world and leads what he calls a Socrates Cafe and Democracy Cafe to encourage people to engage in Socratic dialogues to tackle difficult issues in more productive ways.

Christoper Phillips, author and founder, Socrates Cafe

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March 4: The future of education in Vermont

*Vermont education leaders explore the future of education in Vermont and analyze Town Meeting 2015 results, in which 20 school budgets failed.

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February 25: Donna Carpenter of Burton Snowboards on transforming workplaces for women, climate change, & life

*Donna Carpenter and her husband Jake Burton Carpenter founded Burton Snowboards in 1977. Donna has worn many hats in the business, including building snowboards, answering phones and expanding Burton’s market to Europe. She is now the company President. Donna also heads Burton’s non-profit Chill Foundation, bringing snowboarding to underprivileged youth, and is the mother of three sons. Donna Carpenter talks about transforming a male dominated business to be female-friendly, the importance of women in her business, surviving Jake’s cancer, the threat that climate change poses to her work, and her future.

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February 19: NPR “On Point” Host Tom Ashbrook on interviewing, living and grievingThe Fall Line: Author Nathaniel Vinton on Going Downhill Fast with Bode Miller and Lindsay Vonn

*Tom Ashbrook, host of NPR’s On Point, a 2-hour daily call in show heard on 286 radio stations around the country, talks about his journey from growing up on a farm in Illinois to covering global hotspots as a journalist for the Boston Globe and NPR. He also reflects on life and grieving after the recent death of his wife of 42 years. LIsten Now.

*Nathaniel Vinton, a sports reporter for the New York Daily News, talks about ski racers Bode Miller and Lindsay Vonn and how climate change has made ski racing more dangerous, in his new book, The Fall Line: How American Ski Racers Conquered a Sport on the Edge. LIsten Now.


February 11: Childcare: Crisis & Opportunity

*In Vermont, more than 26,000 children under the age of 6 are in need of childcare. According to Building Bright Futures, licensed childcare providers have the capacity to serve only 40 percent of these children. Up to half of children are not sufficiently prepared to enter kindergarten. Vermont Gov. Shumlin has called for the formation of a Blue Ribbon Commission to research financing options for high-quality, affordable childcare .

We have four perspective on childcare:

  • Parent: Alison Maynard, Director, Center for Leadership and Innovation at The University of Vermont Continuing Education, mother 4 and 5 year old.
  • Provider: Sonja Raymond, Owner of Apple Tree Learning Centers in Stowe, and Quality Project Coordinator for the Vermont Association of the Education of Young Children (VAEYC), mother of 16 yr old.
  • Business person: Benjamin (Ben) Wilson, President of the Better Middlebury Partnership, an organization dedicated to making the greater Middlebury area a better place to live, work and play. Ben is active in the BMP’s efforts to recruit  telecommuters and new businesses to the Middlebury area. Dad of 5 & 7 yr old.
  • Robyn Freedner-Maguire, Campaign Director of Let’s Grow Kids, public education campaign that aims to raise awareness about early childhood development, mother of 3 yr old twins and a 6 yr old.

Listen Now


February 2: Livable jobs

*What is a livable wage in Vt?

First, let’s look at what isn’t livable: The federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour. A person working full-time with two children at the current $7.25 minimum earns $14,500 annually, which is below the federal poverty line. In Vermont, the minimum wage is $9.15 an hour, and is scheduled to rise to $10.50 over the next 3 years. So a full time minimum wage earner in Vt makes about $18,000 per year, which is still below the federal poverty line.

A recent Vermont legislative report put the livable wage in Vermont for a single person living in shared housing at $13.48 an hour, rising to $32.41 for a single wage earner in a household with two adults and two children. Many small businesses insist they can’t pay such high wages.

Four Vermonters talk about their vision of “livable jobs” in Vermont:

  • Jen Kimmich, the co-owner of The Alchemist in Waterbury
  • Liz Holtz, the founder and CEO of Liz Lovely in Waitsfield
  • Russ Bennett, the owner of NorthLand Design & Construction in Waitsfield, and chairman of VBSR Policy Committee
  • Ellen Kahler, the executive director of the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund

Listen Now


January 28: The Future: Intel Futurist Brian David Johnson; Leahy Center for Digital Investigations

*How can we change the future? What is the future we want, and what future should we avoid? These are some of the questions posed by Brian David Johnson, an expert in “future-casting” for Intel Corporation. He discusses the most powerful tools for changing future outcomes, the “Internet of everything,” and “wearable technology.”

Brian David Johnson, Chief Futurist and principal engineer, Intel Corporation and founder of the Tomorrow Project

The future is now at the Leahy Center for Digital Investigations, an innovative “center of excellence” at Champlain College in Burlington, Vermont. We discuss how the Leahy Center functions as both a school and consulting firm, its program for students, and how the Center helped crack complex criminal cases, including the Brooke Bennett murder case in Vermont.

Jonathan Rajewski, assistant professor of Digital Forensics at Champlain College, and director of the Leahy Center for Digital Investigation

Alexandra Santiago Reyes, Digital Forensics major at Champlain College

Listen Now


January 23: State of the Arts: Conductor and violinist Jaime LaredoChristo talks about wrapping the world in fabric

*The Vermont Symphony Orchestra–the oldest state-supported orchestra in the country–celebrates its 80th anniversary this year, and leading it will be a familiar figure: the world renowned violinist and conductor Jaime Laredo. Laredo has been conductor of the VSO since 2000. He has had a storied career, recording close to 100 discs and been awarded seven Grammy nominations. He taught for 35 years at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia and was a principal figure in Vt’s Marlboro Music Festival, and he is now on the faculty at the Cleveland Institute of Music. He divides his time between his homes in Cleveland and Guilford, Vt.

Laredo talks about his life in music, reflects on the state of classical music, its meaning and its value. Listen Now.

*Christo, the world renowned artist, has created massive and controversial public art works, including wrapping the German parliament in fabric, the 24-mile-long artwork called Running Fence in California, and The Gates in Central Park. He talks about his newest projects: Over the River, in which he plans to cover nearly 7 miles of the Arkansas River in Colorado, which has sparked lawsuits by local groups, and Mastaba, a pyramid-like structure built from oil barrels that will stand in Abu Dhabi, his first permanent structure. He talks about the meaning of his art and his lifelong partnership in art and life with his late wife Jeanne-Claude, who died in 2009. Listen Now.


January 14: Education Funding; Preventing Suicide in Vermont

Education funding: Does Vermont have an education funding crisis? We discuss this issue, school consolidation, and the effectiveness of the Act 60 education funding reform law with:

*William J. Mathis, managing director of the National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado Boulder and the former superintendent of schools for the Rutland Northeast Supervisory Union in Brandon, Vermont. He was a National Superintendent of the Year finalist and a Vermont Superintendent of the Year. He currently serves on the Vermont State Board of Education and chairs the legislative committee.

Suicide Prevention: Why does Vermont have a higher suicide rate than the national average? What are the warning signs, and what prevention resources exist?

*Corey Gould, president of board, VT Chapter the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, licensed psychologist, Gifford Medical Center

*JoEllen Tarallo-Falk, director, VT Suicide Prevention Center, Executive Director, Center for Health and Learning

Listen Now


January 7: Surviving in Avalanche Country and Health Care in Vermont

Surviving: In the aftermath of the death of two US Ski Team members in an avalanche in Austria this week (including 20 year old Burke Mountain Academy graduate Ronnie Berlack), there is renewed interest in the science and art of staying alive in avalanche country. We speak with the journalists behind The Human Factor, Powder Magazine’s new groundbreaking 5-part series on surviving avalanches:

*John Stifter, editor, Powder Magazine, who survived an avalanche in 2012 that killed three friends

*David Page, author, The Human Factor, Powder Magazine

Health Care Reform in Vermont After Single Payer: What’s next for health care reform in Vermont now that single payer has been abandoned? Four experts weigh in:

*Rep. Bill Lippert, chair, House Health Care Committe

*Neal Goswami, Vermont News Bureau Chief

*Dan Barlow, VBSR public policy manager

*Bram Kleppner, CEO, Danforth Pewter, and supporter of single payer

Listen Now


December 31: Truth Tellers: ESPN’s Howard Bryant on race and sports; Author Julia Alvarez on borders and bridges

*Howard Bryant, senior writer for, ESPN The Magazine, ESPN, and ESPN Radio. He has also been a reporter for the Washington Post and Boston Herald, and the author of many books. We talk about his recent article,“After Ferguson, sports stars are waking up,” and his own experiences and reflections on race and class.

*Julia Alvarez, whose novels include How The García Girls Lost Their Accents and In the Time of the Butterflies, is writer in residence at Middlebury College. Her work has earned her numerous awards, including this year’s National Medal of the Arts. We speak about growing up in the Domenican Republic and the U.S., her work supporting migrant workers in Vermont, her thoughts on crossing borders, and her New Year’s resolutions to “tell stories to help come together as a human family”

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December 24: Making a Difference

We tour Vermont to talk with some of the groups and people making a difference by helping others:

*Katie Titterton, Children’s Literacy Foundation

*Greg Stefanski, Laraway Youth & Family Service

*Curtis Reid, Vermont Partnership for Fairness & Diversity

*Kim Fountain, Pride Center of Vermont

*Cherylanne Linares, Warrior Spirit Ranch

(Bold denotes VBSR Member)

Listen Now


December 18: Labor Issues in the Green Mountains: Striking FairPoint workers speak; Adjunct faculty unionizes

*FairPoint strike: The strike against FairPoint Communications by 1,700 workers across Vermont, Maine, and New Hampshire is now entering its third month. Some 300 of those striking workers live in Vermont. What’s at stake, and why are workers on strike? We talk with:

  • Mike Spillane, business manager, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) in Vermont
  • Lisa Barr, an employee of FairPoint and its telecom predecessors for the last 24 years, who is on strike

*Adjuncts Unite: More than 40 percent of professors at private, nonprofit colleges in Vermont work part-time. Nationally, the percentage of professors without tenure increased from 57 to 70 percent between 1993 and 2011. This fall, adjunct faculty at Champlain College, Burlington College and St. Michael’s College each voted to join the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). We speak with two adjunct faculty about their working conditions and hopes for change:

  • Naomi Winterfalcon, adjunct professor, Champlain College
  • Betsy Allen-Pennebaker, adjunct professor, Champlain College

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December 11: Journalist and author Adam Hochschild

*We spend the hour talking with the award winning journalist and author Adam Hochschild about his writings on the soldiers and deserters from WWI, his writings about the past and present of Congo and South Africa, his recent op-ed on “why no one remembers the peacemakers,” his thoughts on despots, justice and CIA torture, and the future of journalism.

Adam Hochschild is a journalist and author and the co-founder of Mothers Jones magazine.His books include:

Hochschild has also written for the New Yorker, Harper’s Magazine, The Atlantic, the New York Times Magazine, and The Nation and other publications.

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December 5: Truth tellers: Walking out of the Army and across America; A Vermont journalist reflects

*We speak with two truth tellers:

  • Rory Fanning was an Army Ranger who fought alongside Pat Tillman in Afghanistan before leaving the military as a conscientious objector. In 2008-2009, he walked across America partly to heal, and partly as a protest against the Army’s coverup of Tillman’s death. He wrote about his experiences in Worth Fighting For: An Army Ranger’s Journey Out of the Military and Across America.
  • Sam Hemingway recently retired after 37 years as a reporter at the Burlington Free Press. He talks about the stories he’s covered that have made a difference: Gov. Howard Dean’s 2004 presidential campaign, heroin in Vermont, the case of an apartheid-era sanctions buster. He also reflects on the changes in media and recent upheaval at the Burlington Free Press.

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November 19: Women and Sustainable Business: Allison Hooper and Sara Newmark

*We talk with two Vermont women who are leaders in sustainable businesses about the challenges faced by women in business and the unique voice that they bring: They join us from the VBSR Fall Conference at Mt. Snow:

Allison Hooper, co-founder, Vermont Creamery

Sara Newmark, Director of Sustainability, New Chapter, the Brattleboro-based national brand of organic vitamins and herbal supplements.

Listen Now


November 6: The $4 billion election: Elections, dark money & democracy

*The 2014 midterm election was the most expensive in history, with $4 billion spent on campaigns around the country, including massive amounts of “dark money” from groups that do not reveal their donors. Robert McChesney sheds light on dark money as he discusses his new book (co-authored with John Nichols), Dollarocracy: How the Money and Media Election Complex is Destroying America.

*Zephyr Teachout, who grew up in Vermont and is now a professor at Fordham Law School, ran for governor of New York this year against incumbent Andrew Cuomo. Despite Cuomo’s $30 million war chest, Teachout won one third of the vote in the Democratic primary and forced Cuomo to campaign furiously against her. Teachout talks how she did so well against a powerful incumbent, her roots in Howard Dean’s presidential campaign, women in politics, and her future.

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October 29: Alternative economies: Time banks and barters; Red Scare in Vermont

*Vermont’s alternative economies are bustling: Onion River Exchange members have made over 10,000 work exchanges, sharing more than 30,000 service hours in 80 categories. VBSR Marketplace facilitates bartering good and services between members. To talk about it:

  • Heath Kralick, Outreach coordinator, Onion River Exchange
  • Michael Arnowitt, ORE member and concert pianist
  • Neily Jennings, Common Ground Center and VBSR Marketplace participant


In 1950, Vermont had a little known McCarthy Era anti-communist witch hunt. Rick Winston discusses his article about the incident, which appeared in Vermont History.

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October 22: The Renewable Revolution

*Renewable energy has gone from pipedream to reality. Two leaders look at how renewables are powering us today and future prospects:

  • David Hochschild, Commissioner, California Energy Commission, co-founder Vote Solar Initiative
  • Gabrielle Stebbins, executive director, Renewable Energy Vermont

Listen Now


October 16: Vermont’s Farm to Plate Movement

*Vermont has been a national leader in the farm to plate movement — connecting farmers with food providers to build sustainable local economies. We talk with three leaders of that movement in Vermont:

  • Mark Curran, co-founder and co-owner, Black River Produce, winner, 2014 VBSR Terry Ehrich Award for Excellence in Socially Responsible Business
  • Ellen Kahler, executive director, Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund
  • Robin Morris, founder, Mad River Food Hub

Listen Now


October 8: Hidden Voices: Porn criminals and women in prison

*Can pornography ruin your life? Possession and distribution of Internet child pornography is one of the fastest growing prosecuted crimes in the U.S, increasing 150 percent every year since the mid-2000s.  End of Love is a documentary film that shines a light on how adolescent boys and others are being arrested and charged as sex offenders for downloading porn. We speak with filmmakers Deb Ellis and Alex Halkin about this issue and their film about it.

*In our second half, we hear from incarcerated women who write. There are now 200,000 women behind bars in the U.S. Sarah Bartlett talks about writinginsideVT, a writer’s group inside Vermont’s women’s prison. She is also co-editor, with Marybeth Redmond, of Hear Me, See Me: Incarcerated Women Write, a collection of essays by incarcerated women in Vermont. We also talk with Angela Avery, who discusses her time in prison and reads from her writings.

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October 1: Can business be a force for good?

Can capitalism solve the problems of capitalism? Can business be a force for good? Two pioneers of socially responsible business hold a public conversation and offer their experiences and views on these and other topics with The Vermont Conversation host David Goodman. This is an edited version of the VBSR sponsored Vermont Town Hall public conversation held on Sept. 26, 2014, at Spruce Peak Performing Arts Center in Stowe, Vt.

*Jeffrey Hollender, founder of Seventh Generation and Sustain Condoms

*Tom Chappell, founder of Tom’s of Maine and Rambler’s Way

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September 24: The People’s Climate March: An audio postcard

*On September 21, 2014, some 400,000 people rallied at the People’s Climate March in New York City in an historic protest to demand that global leaders take action to slow climate change. Vermont sent 22 buses with over 1,000 people, and many more Vermonters traveled to the march on their own. Six alumni of the Narrative Journalism Fellowship at Middlebury College Bianca Giaever, Ian Stewart, Kiya Vega-Hutchens, Luke Whalen, Veronica Rodriguez, and David Fuchs, along with teacher Sue Halpern created an audio postcard featuring the voices of Vermonters at the march.

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September 24: The slow money revolution

*Woody Tasch, founder of the national Slow Money movement, talks about his evolution from being a venture capitalist to investing in sustainable food and agriculture and supporting a nonviolent economy. Eric Becker, co-founder of Slow Money Vermont, talks about how even small investors can help support sustainable food ventures in Vermont.

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September 17: Can we save the planet? The many faces of the climate change movement

*On the eve of the People’s Climate March in New York City, we speak with people involved in fighting climate change on different fronts:

  • Bill McKibben, author, activist, founder,, on building a global movement
  • Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin, on what VT is doing to move to renewable fuel sources and his view on fossil fuel divestment
  • Jonathan Lash, president, Hampshire College, on being one of the first colleges to divest of fossil fuel stocks
  • Clayton Thomas-Muller, co-director, Indigenous Tar Sands Campaign, organizer with Idle No More, on native resistance

Listen Now


September 4: Let’s Grow Kids: Improving early childhood in Vermont

*About half of Vermont’s children arrive at kindergarten unprepared. Children who are not prepared for school are less likely to graduate from college and more likely to need special education, depend on social services, have health concerns, and commit crimes. Let’s Grow Kids is a campaign to educate Vermonters about giving children the support and preparation for success in life. Discussing early childhood initiatives:

  • Julie Coffey, Building Bright Futures Early Childhood Advisory Council
  • LouAnn Beninati, Vermont Birth to Three
  • Dr, Johana Brakeley, MD, pediatrician
  • Robyn Freedner-Maguire, Let’s Grow Kids

Listen Now

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