Perspectives

Did you miss an essay from your favorite "Perspectives" writer? Want to hear it again? Scroll down to find a complete archive of our "Perspectives" essays. You'll find the most recent at the top.

To find out more about each writer, click on his or her name at the bottom of each entry.

If you would like to submit your own Perspective for consideration, compose a piece that will run about 90 seconds when read -- that's about 230 to 250 words, as counted by Microsoft Word -- and email it to NPR@niu.edu. Be sure to put "Perspectives" in the subject line.

Northern Public Radio invites you to comment on or respond to any Perspective in the comments section at the bottom of each article, in keeping with our Discussion Policy.

A New Language Opens A World

May 16, 2018

Language, I believe, is the driving force in interpersonal communication and life as most of us know it.

And, while just about every language is flawed in its incapacity to address falls short in addressing the breadth of human emotion, these languages are more than capable of guiding masses of people around the world as they go about their lives.

The Best Reason To Love May

May 15, 2018

Of course you know the dozen reasons why May is the sweetest month.

But put aside for now May’s eye candy—the orioles and buntings and tulips. And May’s nosegays—hyacinths and lilacs and lilies of the valley. You must put aside even crappie fishing, for now, to focus on May’s rarest gift: morel mushrooms.

You’ve waited 50 weeks for their arrival. But now, somewhere on the edge of a forest, it’s beginning; morels are pushing themselves through the duff. You’d rather hunt for mushrooms than anything else, admit it.

The Press Have A Role To Play

May 14, 2018

James Madison once said, “The truth is that all men having power ought to be mistrusted.”

And mistrust of those wielding the levers of power in government goes back to the days of the American Revolution, closely followed by intellectual brawls in creating the U.S. Constitution, and soon followed by the party wars of the 1790s.

That mistrust is still with us, and it is a healthy thing.

The Benefits Of Manual Labor

May 11, 2018

At a young age, I vividly recall announcing to my dad that I could never be a garbage man. He asked why, and I said the job was dirty, gross, and exhausting.

His eyes widened and he proceeded to laugh. I felt bewildered, since I didn’t find this observation funny.

He said that, as a kid, he worked from dusk ’til dawn, removing rocks from corn fields and loading hay. My dad thoroughly believed this experience transformed him into a hard-working man. His motto became: “Work every day, or the opportunity might not come tomorrow.”

Success Comes Through Hard Work

May 10, 2018

The media surround us, planting images and ideals in our minds of what our bodies should look and feel like. The media rarely acknowledge that “healthy” can vary between individuals.

You don’t need to be a size zero to feel healthy. You don’t need to look like the magazine model who has undergone three rounds of Photoshop, or the guy with massive muscles who swallows steroids daily but claims a “healthy lifestyle.” Healthy should be feeling good in your own skin.

Stick To Those Tough Decisions

May 9, 2018

I increased the volume of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5. I puffed hard. The little red-headed cigarette burnt impatiently. I could feel it reach the bottom of my lungs. I flew to cloud nine. I rolled my eyes and let my mind float with the music. Then, I penned this promise:

“I’m done. I have enjoyed this. I have suffered enough from this.

“Now, I vow to stop smoking.

“One day, I will regret this, but it is my choice. This is my last cigarette.”

Kids Need To Get Outside

May 8, 2018

As a child, I spent most of my time outdoors. Whether I jumped rope, drew with chalk, or rode my bike, I practically lived outside. March through October constituted prime playtime, so I reveled in the warm weather. Those eight months were filled with growth, both in the trees and in my mind.

A Lesson From Diversity

May 7, 2018

I grew up in a diverse family.  My father is of German descent, and my mother has Polish and Yugoslavian blood.  But my mother was born in Venezuela in 1960 and moved to America four years later.

Ever since she came to Chicago at a young age, she assimilated into American culture that consequently makes her different from her family.  I believe that my mother living in America for so long has helped her escape any form of criticism that we see nowadays.

Job Success For The Future

May 4, 2018

Today’s university graduates face increasing competition for employment.

This competition comes not just from other qualified graduates across the globe but from algorithms, artificial intelligence and robots. And, in the face of this machinic incursion, I have just one piece of advice: Give up.

For data-intensive occupations that rely on pattern recognition and repetitive operations, machines are simply better, stronger and faster.

My husband and I have been keen fans of the BBC series, “Call the Midwife.”

Set in post-war, poverty-stricken East London, the midwives – both religious and lay – face complicated birthing challenges in each episode. In each situation they show courage and grace, blended with their own human emotions and shortcomings. At the end of each episode, the narrator, Vanessa Redgrave, reflects on what was learned and celebrated.

A Different View Of Generations

May 2, 2018

A recent Perspective on WNIJ expounded on the supposed differences between Millennials and Gen Z. It took me by surprise how that it described a fissure between the two generations.

Millennials were painted as a failed generation who, after running their wallets dry, ungratefully retreat to their parents’ basements to live as self-important recluses. Meanwhile, Generation Z -- composed of those no older than 21, according to the Pew Research Center -- are idyllic, capable, and more mature than their predecessors.

Battered Roads Need Attention

May 1, 2018

Years of neglect have done incredible harm to highways and municipal streets in northern Illinois. The four highways that go into and out of Dixon, and the streets that weave among those highways, paint a dreary picture of the condition of roadways throughout northern Illinois.

The Strength Of Knowledge

Apr 30, 2018

I admire the leadership of Bobby Seale and Huey Newton, the co-founders of The Black Panther Party for Self Defense, in Oakland, California. The organization was started in 1966 to bring awareness to -- and protect Black people from -- police brutality in their communities.

Huey Newton, who earned his PhD from the University of California, Santa Cruz, studied the gun laws of California and educated other Panthers about how to arm themselves legally to protect their families and friends from the illegal actions of Oakland police.

Not long ago, rummaging in the basement for a sledgehammer, I ran across one of my old high school yearbooks. I hadn’t liked high school, and so I decided to peruse the yearbook -- in effect, giving high school a second chance.

Well, it was just as bad the second time. The most handsome boy and most beautiful girl didn’t seem all that handsome or beautiful to me — just average looking. The most popular boy and girl were never especially nice to me.

Finding Out About Fixers

Apr 26, 2018

Thanks to Michael Cohen, the president’s personal lawyer, we’ve all learned a lot recently about fixers.

A fixer is someone who takes care of the boss’s problems -- with charm, or with money, or with threats. Intimidated people with stories to tell go quiet after signing non-disclosure agreements. Poof, problem solved. File the agreement and move on.

Farming Isn't What It Used To Be

Apr 25, 2018

My father was born into a farm family in 1908. The land was worked with horses. His day went sunrise to sunset.

As a farmer, he never owned his own land but share-cropped with land owners. By the time I was in eighth grade in 1965, he was working nights as a watchman so he would have enough money to keep farming.

At the time, the Secretary of Agriculture toured the country telling farmers, “Get big, or get out.” My father got out, sold his farming equipment, and we moved into a little ranch house in town. He went to work as a truck driver in a small-town factory.  

A Tale Of A Tired Bird

Apr 24, 2018

Another of Dad’s stories illustrates the best and worst of decision making. It came in handy recently, so I’ll share it with you.

This little bird lived happily in his treehouse. The weather was cooling, and other birds were flying south. Not ready to uproot himself, this bird couldn’t make himself leave.

One morning the bird awoke to snow. Shivering, he realized he should have flown south earlier. No matter, he’d begin his journey now.

So the bird flew for days on end to catch up. Even when his wings got tired, he kept flying – yet he had many miles to go.

Let's Wait And See About Korea

Apr 23, 2018

We critics have plenty to complain about Trump’s egregious domestic and foreign policy blunders. But, in politics, you take what you can get.

As a strong critic of Trump, I commend his tamping down his harsh rhetoric about North Korea, and commend his bold, unexpected, promise to talk with North Korea’s leader.

His unconventional move has caused much hand-wringing among his critics. “How dangerous, and what if these talks fail?”

Hey, let’s breathe a sigh of relief that he’s talking negotiations, instead of raining fire and fury.

Read Widely To Find Truth

Apr 20, 2018

Plato feared poets would corrupt his idealized Republic through emotional appeals. However, he was using poetic devices himself to create his fictional city.

It was for higher ends like those espoused by Plato that 16th century scholar Sir Philip Sidney defended poetry as ennobling humans and giving them higher ideals. He defined “poetry” as any sort of creative endeavor.

What's Your Pet Generation?

Apr 19, 2018

The latest generation to hit adolescence is called Generation Z by some and Gen Edge by others. While they follow close on the heels of the Millennials, researchers say these kids differ from their older Millennial siblings in a lot of ways -- kind of like the temperament difference between cats and dogs.

It's Time For This Historic Vote

Apr 18, 2018

In 1972, Congress passed the Equal Rights Amendment and most states promptly approved it. But over the years, it fell three states short of the two-thirds necessary for ratification.

Last March, Nevada ratified the ERA leaving only two states to go. Illinois has a chance to be one of those two states this spring when the state legislature returns.

Working On The Dream

Apr 17, 2018

I am my younger self’s worst nightmare. I am proof that not all dreams come true -- even dreams you want so badly you can taste them.

I am proof that maybe they shouldn’t come true -- like that boy you wanted to marry so badly, but then you both grew up and you shudder at the thought of spending your life with him.

Years ago, I was driven to be a successful writer. I hoped my novel would go to auction, that my hard work, my very self, would be vindicated by a six-figure offer. Maybe then I’d be worth something.

Why Did Home Rule Issue Fail?

Apr 16, 2018

Rockfordians recently rejected Home Rule for two distinct, yet related, reasons.

First, there was a lack of trust. A "yes" vote required a profession of faith that officials would not misuse or exceed the authority granted. That faith, evidently, did not exist.

This should not have been surprising. Almost all regional referenda failed‎. Citizens voted instead to consolidate government offices and restrain taxes. This, in turn, should not have been surprising.

Lessons From Books In Our Past

Apr 13, 2018

  “I have lived a great deal among grown-ups.
"I have seen them intimately, close at hand.

"And that hasn’t much improved my opinion of them.”

Those are not my words. But they do feel clever … and true. 

I didn’t pull these words from a newspaper or probing essay or a TED talk. They come from a book written for children, titled The Little Prince.

Books for kids tell stories with morals, teach values, and say stuff we should all hear.

The Assurances Of Spring

Apr 12, 2018

Can you believe this weather?

On Easter it was cold, very cold, then it snowed. Soon it will be in the middle 60s. What’s up? It’s on everyone’s mind, the Midwest spring/winter roller coaster. 

Let me remind everyone: We have had chilly, very chilly, and wet weather as late as Memorial Day. I remember standing in the clammy climate cheering on my kids who were marching in a parade, shivering down to my damp toes. 

Why Hunger Amid Abundance?

Apr 11, 2018

Recently I walked into a supermarket on a Sunday morning after Mass. What struck me that day was the produce section: Every bin was filled completely with beautiful and colorful fruits and vegetables.

Just about every supermarket is like that. Walk in, and the first thing you see is beautiful, ordered abundance. And I was stuck with the thought that, even with this abundance, there are people in our town that go hungry.

Life Plays Out In A Lonely Act

Apr 10, 2018

Oddly, it was the color gray I noticed most. Despite the fact that he was using a small, yellow duffel bag as a pillow, it was the color gray that caught my attention.

Gray-grimed jeans, gray sweatshirt, gray cap, and gray blanket. I wondered if, perhaps, he had been working at a construction site and been covered in the grayness of concrete dust.

His Dream Is Still Deferred

Apr 9, 2018

Last Wednesday was April 4, the fiftieth anniversary of the assassination of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King. Dr. King, without doubt, one of our most beloved and respected historical figures. However, there’s much about his ideas, message, and activities that has been edited from our collective memory.

Paean For An Open Primary

Apr 6, 2018

We have just finished a primary election in Illinois, and yes, I voted, but only on a non-partisan referendum issue.

For decades, I have questioned why primary voters are made to make a public declaration of party preference, when other states have found alternatives to this intrusive requirement. Twenty years ago, while a Wisconsin resident, I was able to vote within a single party ballot without revealing that choice.

Baseball As Metaphor For Life

Apr 5, 2018

The Saint Louis Cardinals will soon begin the 2018 baseball season. I will be right there with them, listening to games, watching when I can, and always reading the recaps.

Baseball, for me, in so many ways, represents life.

The regular season lasts an impossible 162 games. As Whitey Herzog once wrote: you will win 54 and lose 54; it is what you do with that other 54 that counts. So baseball is about patience, perspective, and perseverance.

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