On Point

Mondays through Thursdays at 11 am

hybrid of a talk program and a news-magazine, "On Point" puts each day's news into context and provides a lively forum for discussion and debate. Topics chosen for the program are often taken from the biggest news stories of the day while others have a direct connection to issues that are at the core of what is urgent and important in the world at the moment. Interwoven are programs containing interviews with personalities, politicians, musicians, writers, and journalists.

Ways to Connect

We know that mothers are often disproportionately responsible for housework and childcare. And that’s even more challenging if you’re working. Now, the pandemic has made parents working from home and children attending online classes the new norm. So how has it affected the lives working moms?

On Tuesday, President Trump signed a memorandum calling for the exclusion of undocumented immigrants from the census count that determines House representation. But the power to make that decision, according to the Constitution, belongs to Congress. So what impact will his demand have?


Hansi Lo Wang, National correspondent for NPR covering the 2020 census. (@hansilowang)

Kermode bears, also known as spirit bears, are incredibly elusive. They live only in one section of British Columbia’s central coast, and a new study indicates the gene that turns their fur white is even rarer than previously thought. We talk to two researchers from the study about the quest to protect and preserve the Great Bear Rainforest.

At the birth of this nation, Thomas Paine called for government baby bonds — savings bonds for every child. The idea has been given a fresh coat of paint, and is being proposed as a low-cost government program to tackle the vast inequality in today’s America.

A Conversation With Jane Goodall

Jul 17, 2020

60 years ago, Jane Goodall first began her close observations of Tanzania’s chimpanzees. Equipped with simple binoculars, a notebook and patience, she transformed the way the world understood primates and wildlife. She joins us to look back on her legacy, and discuss the urgent challenges around climate and conservation.

In 2012, former Alabama governor Don Siegelman went to jail for five years. He says his prosecution was driven by a politicized justice system. And he’s now making the case for why American democracy could be at stake without criminal justice reform.

The Supreme Court has surprised both the left and right with rulings on abortion, presidential power, LGBTQ rights and more. Is Chief Justice John Roberts showing that this court can rise above partisanship? We recap the biggest cases of this term and look ahead to the fall.

Libertarian extremists known as the boogaloo bois are now linked with at least two murders. We look at the origins of the movement.


Cassie Miller, senior research analyst for the Southern Poverty Law Center. (@cassiepmiller)

Could the U.S. be on the verge of a financial crash? That’s what Frank Partnoy considers in a recent article in The Atlantic. He joins us to talk about the possibility of a financial crash and the risks big banks are taking.

How the U.S. presidency became impossible. We talk to John Dickerson of CBS News about why he thinks the job is simply too much for anyone.

We look at a 14-mile stretch of the U.S.-Mexico border. What does a border mean in an interconnected world?

This program originally aired on May 11, 2020. 

Handwashing can help kill the coronavirus. But you may be surprised by how short the history of handwashing actually is among humans.

The Republican Party is falling into dangerous traps that could cost the party elections for a generation. At least, that’s the premise of Harvard professor Thomas Patterson’s new book, “Is the Republican Party Destroying Itself?” We’ll talk to him, plus Republicans who have a different vision for the future of the GOP.

Most mornings, David Pettee leaves his house early and sets out in search of the sounds of hope and tranquility.

Pettee, a Unitarian Universalist minister living in Cambridge, finds them on his daily walks around Fresh Pond Reservoir, courtesy of the birds.

Pettee is being treated for cancer, and part of his therapy is going on these regular morning walks around the pond. Accompanied by the chirping and cooing of the local avian life, he’s never really alone. By this point, he’s able to identify many of them by their calls.

Who will Joe Biden select as his running mate? We assess his short list of candidates.


Christopher Devine, political science professor at the University of Dayton. Co-author of “Do Running Mates Matter?” (@ProfDevine)

Children’s book author Jacqueline Woodson has written over 30 books, often focused on race and identity in America. We get her take on the current moment and talk about the never-ending power of story.

How Coronavirus Will Change City Life

Jun 26, 2020

This broadcast originally aired on May 6, 2020.

Past pandemics changed the way of life in cities around the world. We look at how city features were inspired by history’s worst disease outbreaks.


Brian Melican, journalist, author and translator. (@melican)

Recovering from COVID-19. Millions of Americans have had the disease. Some people suffer from long-term medical conditions. So what does recovery actually look like?


Dr. Mafuzur Rahman, vice chair of medicine, director of hospital medicine and clinical assistant professor at SUNY Downstate. He’s been on the front lines of the pandemic and created a COVID-19 discharge clinic.

Actor and comedian Patton Oswalt joins us for a chat about parenting, loss, his many projects and keeping humor alive through a pandemic.


Patton Oswalt, comedian, actor and writer. His latest special is “I Love Everything.” (@pattonoswalt)

Professor, author and preacher Michael Eric Dyson has spent his life’s work grappling with the concept of race in America. And he says he’s more hopeful now than ever before. We talk with him.

The History And Hope Of Juneteenth

Jun 19, 2020

Celebrating Juneteenth. We talk about the push to observe and understand the deeper story of the holiday.


Mary Elliott, historian and specialist at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. (@NMAAHC)

New York Times business writer Eduardo Porter talks about how racial hostility is impoverishing all Americans.


Eduardo Porter, economics reporter for the New York Times. Author of “American Poison: How Racial Hostility Destroyed Our Promise.” (@portereduardo)

George Mpanga, better known as George the Poet, is a 29-year-old British spoken word artist. His new podcast is a genre-defying mix of music, poetry, storytelling, and personal narrative. We talk to him about his art, his push for social change and this moment now.


George the Poet, London-based spoken word artist. Host of “Have You Heard George’s Podcast?,” the first European podcast to ever win a Peabody award.

The Supreme Court’s landmark ruling on workplace protection for LGBTQ workers. The justices ruled 6-3 that portions of the Civil Rights Act extend to gender identity and sexual orientation. We analyze the historic decision and its impact.


Greg Stohr, Supreme Court reporter for Bloomberg News. (@GregStohr)

Some states are reopening, while others have reversed course, as protests for racial justice continue across America. We check in around the country.


Rose Scott, host of “Closer Look with Rose Scott” on WABE, an NPR station in Atlanta. (@waberosescott)

Is The Virtual Workplace Here To Stay?

Jun 15, 2020

Working from home has become the norm for some these last few months, but will it endure after the pandemic? We explore the future of the virtual workplace.


Cal Newport, professor of computer science at Georgetown University.

Nicholas Bloom, professor of economics at Stanford University. (@SIEPR)

This broadcast originally aired on April 16, 2020.

A look at the Strategic National Stockpile. Where is it? What is it? What should it be used for? We’ll talk with the man who was once in charge of the whole thing.


Greg Burel, former director of the Strategic National Stockpile. (@gburel)

We talk to members of the high school class of 2020 about what it’s like to enter adulthood amid nationwide protests and a pandemic.


Sandy Banks, columnist for the Los Angeles Times. (@SandyBanksLA)

Rafael Escoto, he is graduating from Washington Heights Expeditionary Learning School in New York. He plans on attending St. Lawrence University in New York.

Do protests spread the coronavirus? What about asymptomatic people? And where are the next possible hotspots? We look into what we know about the pandemic as global cases continue to rise, while much of the developed world begins to reopen.


Dr. Ashish Jha, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute. (@ashishkjha)

The call for a modern-day civil rights movement. We talk to two scholars of history about the need for change and healing.