WIUM Tristates Public Radio

Local Commentaries

The opinions expressed in these commentaries are not necessarily those of Tri States Public Radio or Western Illinois University. Diverse viewpoints are welcomed and encouraged.

Commentary: Familiar Companions and Deep Dives

Sep 9, 2020

I like to read. As I was growing up I couldn't put down a Nancy Drew mystery once I began it. I was driven to find out what happened; the narrative was all.

The onset of a new semester generally greets me with a combination of excitement and dread.  This semester however, has been a bit different, in that despite my decades of teaching and my dutiful mastery of online instruction, I find myself in full on panic mode.  And while the adrenalin that courses through my veins is a welcome relief from the chronic anxiety that has not relinquished its hold over me since March, I remind myself that I know how to teach and my students know how to learn, despite all of the obstacles that 2020 may throw our way. 

Commentary: Of Masks and Rights

Aug 31, 2020
Courtesy Dave Babcock

Do we have a right not to wear a mask in light of COVID-19? We sometimes use "right" in a moral sense, as in the Declaration of Independence. In the Declaration, we claim certain inherent human rights, which we used to justify a new nation, including its constitution and the revolution necessary to establish it as an independent nation.

Commentary: We Learn to Improvise

May 20, 2020

Wynton Marsalis has a saying: Improvisation is part of all American life. If you cannot improvise you will not survive.  And therefore, indeed, I live life as a jazz artist, because life is constant improvisation.   

In life we know there is a beginning (Part I of the jazz piece) and that there is an end death/or life's transition, (the piece is finished).  But what about the middle?  The middle is where we participate in and struggle the most.  It is where our most important decisions happen. 

Commentary: Adaptation and Resilience

May 13, 2020
Rich Egger

This was supposed to be an eventful week in our families, particularly those of us with Macomb high school students:  Prom and Mother's Day last weekend, and graduation this coming weekend.  Every special event in our lives is being celebrated as best we can against the backdrop of a period unique in the history of all but those of us who are over 102:  a Global Pandemic.  This week has me thinking about adaptation and resilience.   

Commentary: This Too Shall Pass

May 6, 2020
Courtesy photo

When I think of my last day of my senior year, I think of the excitement and nerves that every other senior before me experienced. Turning in books, preparing to take any finals, cleaning out that locker one last time. The last time you see your classmates and teachers before graduation. I was really looking forward to that day, but that day will never come.

Commentary: The Bubonic Plague and Vagrancy Laws

Apr 22, 2020

As we navigate through these difficult times, I am reminded of several sociological studies that have examined the effects of a past pandemic on our laws and culture. The bubonic plague first hit Europe in 1347. It was first spread by fleas, highly contagious, and victims died within days of contracting the disease. The bubonic plague, or Black Death, is estimated to have killed 60% of the world's population.

Commentary: Gratitude During a Time of Crisis

Apr 8, 2020
Gloria Delany-Barmann

As I shelter at home with my family these days, I've been thinking a lot about travel, community, and the privilege I have had to cross borders to live, work, and travel abroad. Perhaps my thoughts of travel stem from the fact that for now and the foreseeable future, I won't be getting on any airplanes or taking any cross-country road trips. At the same time, and on a more serious note, my thoughts are grounded in the real concern for those in places both here and around the globe where people are less able to social distance or unable to shelter at home.  

Rich Egger

So goes Western Illinois University, so goes the City of Macomb. Western Illinois University and the City of Macomb have a longstanding partnership, and together we work to ensure the town and gown relationship remains steadfast.

Heather McIlvaine-Newsad

For the last two Saturdays, my daughter Maren and I have joined a small group of returned Peace Corps volunteers and friends from Macomb to help Genesis Gardens distribute food from the Loaves and Fishes pantry.  Armed with hand sanitizer and attempting to keep 6 feet between ourselves at all times, we loaded copious bags of dried, frozen and fresh food into our vehicles.  Maren and I spent the next hour finding nooks and crannies of Macomb that I never knew existed.   We knocked on doors and left food on front porches and stoops.  

Commentary: A Tribute to Nathan

Mar 25, 2020
Courtesy photo

As the executive director of the Western Illinois Regional Council, I hired Nathan Cobb in June 2009.  I remember interviewing him and thinking, not only did he have the right qualifications to work in the Weatherization program; I also felt he had the attributes and qualities to be someone who could do anything he set his mind to, and that is exactly what he did. 

Commentary: Human Solidarity

Mar 18, 2020

In the midst of uncertainty and concern, there is a lot that has been weighing on my heart and soul. I can imagine it is the same for many of you too.

Commentary: Learn the Lingo, and a Whole Lot More

Mar 11, 2020
Rich Egger

Recently, I was struck by an ad I heard: "So who doesn't want to learn another language? But sitting for months in a classroom, learning? That's no fun!" I couldn't disagree more. About fifteen years ago, I began taking German courses in order to better communicate with my relatives in Bavaria, to aid my work as an academic librarian, and to broaden my horizons. Along the way, I also took two years of Japanese. I couldn't pass up the opportunity. Eventually my credits became a second baccalaureate degree, including study abroad in Germany.


In The Botany of Desire Michael Pollan wrote, "With the solitary exception of the Eskimos, there isn't a people on Earth who doesn't use psychoactive plants to effect a change in consciousness, and there probably never has been."  Science has proven this true, in that everywhere plants grow, people have ingested them. 

Commentary: The Things That Unite Us

Feb 26, 2020

Barreling down a freeway in a massive charter bus that had come to feel like home, the world stopped spinning. I no longer felt the black hole in my stomach that begged my legs to take me home and my thumbs to call my mom. Surrounded by friendship and darkness on our way back to the Land of Lincoln, the group of Illinois teenagers, who were sponsored to go to Washington D.C., were homeward bound after this weeklong adventure. None of us were comfortable in the beginning, but some of us were better actors than the rest.

Commentary: The Love of a Mother

Feb 19, 2020

Several years ago my daughter, who was then around the age of ten, frighteningly became the focus of an irrational woman's public agitation. As she physically moved in an aggressive manner towards my completely innocent daughter, I responded without thinking, putting my body between her and my daughter.  I was firm, my voice was clear, and I stood my ground until the woman settled down.

Heather McIlvaine-Newsad

This winter marks the final swim season for my Maren as a member of the YMCA of McDonough County Dolphins.  She was just five when she started swimming and qualified for the state meet in her very first season.  Over the years we have driven hundreds of miles to YMCAs all over Illinois, Wisconsin, and Indiana.  Maren has logged thousands of hours in the pool and along the way she has gathered lots of swim related t-shirts, caps, goggles, swimsuits, friends, and some invaluable life lessons.  

Commentary: The Happier I Am, the Sadder I Feel

Jan 29, 2020

Grief is something no one fully understands until they experience it firsthand. It is a strong emotion that snakes in and out of your life and seeps into areas that some could not imagine was possible. I became very familiar with the complexity of grief after the passing of my mother, Beth Ann McGruder, on May 21, 2017.

Commentary: The Story of a Soul

Jan 15, 2020

The beginning of a new year is often a time to look back and draw inspiration for the future. Today I would like to take this opportunity to look back – far, far back— to 2 exceptional women who lived in the early 1100s. Each fall, I play a piece for the students in my music history class, and ask them what this composition can tell us about people from the past.

Rich Egger

Ringing in the New Year and attempting to make positive changes in how we live seems to go hand in hand.  According to historians, 4,000 years ago ancient Babylonians were among the first people to make New Year's resolutions.  The vows they made to their gods were pretty concrete – pay back debts and return objects they had borrowed from others[1]

Over the past six months I have had the wonderful opportunity to talk with area high school students.  My research in studying the rural teacher shortage crisis through the perceptions of high school students was a natural extension of my commitment to teaching.  As of October 2019, according to the Illinois State Board of Education there were reportedly over 4,000 unfilled positions in our Illinois public schools. Most of them are classroom teachers; many of them in rural school districts. Implications of this shortage are wide-reaching for rural schools that struggle to recruit and retain qualified teachers as positions remain unfilled or are subject to frequent turnover.

Commentary: Take Time to Reflect on Your Wonderful Life

Dec 11, 2019

Tradition! Tis the season of traditions this time of year and part of mine of course include screen time.  We of a certain age have to watch the claymation half hour specials of Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer and of course Santa Claus is Coming to Town. You know, Burgermeister- Meister-Burger. But a must see that I do always is:  It's A Wonderful Life.  It is a love story between George Bailey and the town he is a part of, and turns out the town is a part of him. Only at this moment the relationship is in crisis. In the opening scenes we learn through the community of voices concerned for him that on Christmas Eve 1945 George Bailey is at the end of his rope. All he ever wanted to do was leave his hometown and now at this moment, George feels he has failed everyone especially himself.  

Every month I look forward to the new issue of "The Sun" magazine[1].  I always start on the very last page, diving into a section called the Sunbeams.  Filled with quotes from notable individuals, I like this segment because I often find that the theme resonates with me.  This month was no exception.  In the very first entry the author Cheryl Strayed writes:

Thank You

Nov 27, 2019

I started working as the southeast Iowa news correspondent for Tri States Public Radio on September 2, 2003. Sixteen years and a few months later, I'm moving on to a new line of work, so I just wanted to spend a few more minutes with you and say thank you!

Commentary: Homelessness in Rural Communities

Nov 20, 2019

At the beginning of this semester, the Western Illinois University Marketing Club was contacted by Samaritan Well, the homeless shelter in Macomb, and they asked if we would be interested in helping them put together a fundraiser to raise money and, more importantly, awareness for their organization. I gladly agreed and took up leadership in the project. We decided to make the event a sleep-out, as there is a national sleep-out movement to raise awareness for homelessness during the month of November. The concept of a sleep-out is to spend a night away from home – ideally, sleeping outdoors – to raise awareness for the struggles of those who do not have a home to go to.

Create Memories Without Watching the Clock

Nov 15, 2019

Many of us grew up hearing that our generation was “the future.” But as a child, the future seemed so far off. Growing older seemed impossible.

Courtesy of Heather McIlvaine-Newsad

Winter came early this year ushering in the end of the summer gardening season.  Tomatoes, herbs, and flowers vanished beneath the snow and won't reemerge until summer comes again. As I took my last walk through Barefoot Gardens (a CSA in Macomb) this year, I was especially mindful of how everything changes.  Always.  The end of the 2019 season marked the end of seventeen years that John Curtis and his family have made cultivating food and community the center of their lives.  I will miss the leisurely Saturday mornings after yoga in the garden and the solstice celebrations filled with amazing people and wonderful food.  But aside from being a bit sad, I am grateful for what John and Karen have given this community. 

Commentary: 2,3,4…

Nov 1, 2019

I learned the word "comorbid" when my oldest son was evaluated at the SIU behavioral health center in Springfield. I was told by the mental health professional that, "The brain is a complicated thing with no black and white borders, and there is almost always more than one medical condition existing independently."  Comorbidity.  My oldest son's primary diagnosis is Tourette's Syndrome, and it is accompanied by OCD -- Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

Commentary: A Deeper Understanding

Oct 30, 2019

In the late 1960s I joined the Women's Movement. In the 1970s I even wrote my dissertation on the representation of women in film. In the early 1980s, however, I read bell hooks' Feminist Theory:  From Margin to Center and was compelled to rethink much of what I had learned about feminism and to think beyond white women and our experiences. That led me to read works by Black and Brown women, including Barbara Smith, Cherríe Moraga, Angela Davis, Patricia Hill Collins, and Louise Erdrich.

Without a high school diploma, opportunities in life are limited. Finding a job can be more challenging; unemployment rates are much higher; and pay above minimum wage is unlikely. Generally, minimum wage isn't even enough to pay monthly bills and provide for a family. So, to make ends meet, individuals are often forced to work two jobs, often part-time, and without medical benefits.