Crowd's emotions on display as Ayers visits Saint Mary's
By Lisa Vorderbrueggen
Contra Costa Times
MORAGA The much-anticipated speech by
militant-turned-college-professor Bill Ayers at Saint Mary's College
attracted nearly 600 people, many of them very clearly in
diametrically opposite political camps.
Another 200 people loudly protested Ayers' appearance Wednesday
evening outside the packed Soda Center auditorium in an unparalleled
level of interest in an academic lecture at the rural, private
Inside, Ayers' 90-minute presentation drew jeers, boos and an
emotional outburst from a woman who swore at him and left. He also
received plenty of laughs and applause and a few standing ovations
from the half of the crowd that liked him.
Critics had called for the college to disinvite Ayers, an education
professor at the University of Illinois who was thrust into the
national limelight during President Barack Obama's 2008 campaign when
it was revealed that the two men had served on several boards
together and run in the same liberal circles in Chicago.
Ayers' opponents call him an anti-American terrorist who helped found
the Weather Underground in the 1970s, a militant group that bombed
several public buildings including the Pentagon.
Yet, Ayers' speech lacked the kind of fire-breathing, radical
language that some might have expected from a militant who once
thought blowing up a Pentagon restroom could change the course of the
Vietnam War. (Ayers admitted in an interview before his speech that
the bombings did not stop the war.)
Today, the 60ish college professor is slightly thick about the
middle. He wore two earrings, worn bluejeans and an oversize casual jacket.
The unapologetic liberal and socialist earnestly encouraged audience
members to open their eyes and act when they learn about injustice in
He praised Obama and the president's community organizer background.
He called for the nation to stop treating education like a commodity
that can be manufactured like a Chevrolet and instead advocated
opening numerous, small schools where students are known by their teachers.
He advised students to reject dogma and challenge conventional
wisdom, noting that slavery and women's inability to vote were at one
time accepted legal and social norms.
And he embraced the rights of the protesters in the room and outside,
although he objected to their suggestion that he would "warp
(students') impressionable minds."
"Really, are there books they shouldn't be allowed to read, too?" he asked.
Ayers biggest radical moment of the night may have been when he said
at a Catholic college that he supports a woman's right to have an
His most insightful statement, though, came early in his speech when
he remarked that had it not been for the intense publicity around his
ties to Obama, his appearance at Saint Mary's would very likely have
drawn a far smaller crowd.
Despite promises from Saint Mary's officials that residents would be
allowed to ask questions of Ayers during the question-and-answer
period, the college permitted students to ask questions first and the
clock ran out before local folks had their chance at the microphone.
"I wanted to offer some balance to some of the points Mr. Ayers made
and I am disappointed that I was not allowed to speak," said Becky
Kolberg, echoing the argument of others who say the college is
obligated to offer its students other points of view.
Lisa Vorderbrueggen covers politics. Reach her at 925-945-4773 or
Former Vietnam-Era Radical Bill Ayers Speaks In Moraga
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
MORAGA -- Bill Ayers was one of the founders of the Weather
Underground, a Vietnam era radical group responsible for several
bombings in the early 1970's. At present, he is a professor of
education at the University of Illinois at Chicago and noted for his
work in education reform.
Ayers was invited to speak at the St. Mary's College in Moraga
Wednesday night as part of a lecture series designed to challenge
students to think in new ways. But not everyone welcomed him. Several
conservatives went to the college to protest Ayers' appearance. They
called him a domestic terrorist.
During his speech, one man tried to present Ayers with a bible.
Security took him away and Ayers went on with his lecture. He
challenged students to look at the world differently and get
involved. "We need to open our eyes and see the world as it really
is.. not some fragmented stereotype of a world predigested corporate
ideological lenses and see the world as it is," Ayers said.
Ayers also talked about his name being part of the debate during the
presidential election. Conservatives were outraged that he and Barack
Obama knew each other and had served on the boards of two non-profits
in Chicago. Barack Obama repeatedly condemned the Weather Underground
bombings and said he and Ayers were merely acquaintances.
Face to face with a terrorist
Posted: February 02, 2009
by Barbara Simpson
"Aren't you beautiful!"
Those aren't the first words you'd expect from a domestic terrorist
turned childhood education specialist, but that's what Bill Ayers
said to me last week
He was surrounded by fawning St. Mary's College students asking for
autographs and then there was me, standing directly behind him,
tapping on his shoulder and asking how his life as a terrorist
informed his career as an educator.
Perhaps he thought he'd disarm me; no doubt he knew I wasn't a
student. My question was more intelligent than any he'd been asked by
students that evening.
But he quickly jumped from flattery to well-practiced responses: He
wasn't a domestic terrorist, never set bombs, no one was ever killed
or injured in the bombings carried out by the Weather Underground
organization which he founded. He says they never targeted people,
only buildings and symbols (the Pentagon, the U.S. Capitol, banks,
police departments) to make "a statement."
He denies San Francisco Police Sgt. Brian McDonnell was killed and
eight others injured in one police bombing.
He told me with sincerity they just wanted to stop the Vietnam War
and had demonstrated against it to no avail, so "some of us joined
the Democrats and went on to vote for George McGovern, some did
nothing and, we did what we did we had no choice. But we didn't end
His pat answers to any challenges about his version of his history
was first that I'd "drunk the Kool-Aid" and second, that I "must be
listening to Fox."
The students cheered, believing the bad guy in all of this is Fox News.
What's Bill Ayers doing on a Catholic college campus run by the
Christian Brothers in northern California, getting paid for a lecture
and striking gold with all the free publicity because of the
explosion of public anger over his appearance?
I was told he was paid by campus organizations including the Disney
Forum, an endowment from Walt Disney's brother, Roy.
The school refused to disclose how much Ayers was paid or if any
student body fees were used. Media relations Director Michael McAlpin
said they "had to respect the speaker's privacy."
Funny, they've no compunction about posting general faculty salary
ranges on their website. No privacy there.
The lecture was open to the public, and I attended because I wanted
to know what a domestic terrorist turned childhood education
specialist looked and sounded like. I was curious after having read
so much about him because of his friendship and associations with
Barack Obama, and of Michelle Obama's association with Ayers' wife
and fellow terrorist (now law professor) Bernardine Dohrn.
Ayers is slick, smart and cool. He couched his politics in words that
sucked the students in, playing on "social justice" and their
inclination to have sympathy for poor minorities.
To them that's what "social justice" is about. To Ayers, it's about
making students ashamed of their "privilege" and working to equalize
everything in society. His activist "bring it all down" mentality
hasn't changed; now he does it by teaching teachers how to
indoctrinate their students in socialism.
He constantly had subtle digs about "white people" and how they can't
relate to people who are "different."
He asked how students react to being at St. Mary's (where tuition,
room and board is over $42,000 a year) when nearby San Quentin prison
has so many black and Hispanic inmates?
No one told him that was a stupid question.
He made numerous references to his activism and that of Martin Luther
King and how King found his calling, accomplished much and then
"went to sleep."
Went to sleep?!?!?
The man was assassinated! Apparently the Bill Ayers couldn't say the word.
He told some jokes and garnered some applause but the biggest
reaction came when he said he fully supports a woman's right to
choose. At that, huge whoops, shouts, screams and claps came from a
group of women students no doubt some "good" Catholics among them.
Ayers should have paid St. Mary's for the radio and TV publicity he
got plus columns of newsprint. Two local papers alone ran more than
185 column inches none of which hurt since he's hawking his latest
book, "Race Course: Against White Supremacy."
Hmmmmm, the avowed socialist (and privileged child of wealthy white
parents) has a capitalist streak.
The question about St. Mary's is important when you know Ayers is
unrepentant about his militancy.
I've no doubt St. Mary's faculty and staff knew Ayers history when
they invited him to lecture about education during the "January Term"
However, they hid it from their students who were only told Ayers was
a respected professor working to improve schools and education for
The official speaker listing said Ayers is noted for his work in
education reform and as a founder of the Weather Underground.
The flyer given to the lecture audience had a page of information
about his schooling, titles, activities and writings and in the midst
of it, a sentence that started with: "After leaving the underground
…" (no explanation of what that meant) and went on to describe his schooling.
A number of students admitted they knew nothing about Ayers
background other than he was an educator; others who knew, said they
didn't care because he'd "repented."
No. No apologies, no regrets. He told the New York Times after the
Sept. 11 attacks that he regretted not doing more and said, "I don't
regret setting bombs."
Local groups and individuals rallied to protest his appearance. Many
were furious a Catholic school would host an unrepentant terrorist.
Others were alums or parents of students threatening to stop donations.
The school responded that it was "academic freedom" and that a
liberal arts school is the place for "opinions and ideas of all types
to be examined, questioned and discussed." That's according to school
President Ronald Gallagher
Sounds good but there was no examination of what Ayers said, no
decent questions and no discussion of his ideas.
The audience was promised time for questions from students and the
public. Ayers said he'd stay late to respond.
In fact, barely half an hour was permitted, only for students, and it
When I asked the moderator why, I was told they "ran out of time"
because "Bill's ride was waiting."
It was barely after 9 p.m.
One of audience members e-mailed me that he was standing near the
security gate talking to someone after the speech ended.
He said a Prius, with Bill Ayers as a passenger, went past the gate
as if to leave campus, but made a U-turn and went into the nearby parking lot.
A few minutes later, Ayers left the college grounds in a sports car!
Ayers and his wife are speaking in Berkeley in February, touting
their book. They're promoted as "social justice activists" and former
leaders of the SDS and the Weather Underground.
They're sponsored by the pro-Palestinian Middle Eastern Children's Alliance.
What a surprise.
Former Terrorist's Lecture at Catholic College Is 'Affront to Human
Dignity' Says Catholic Education Group
MORAGA, CA, January 28, 2009 (LifeSiteNews.com) Former domestic
terrorist Bill Ayers will lecture on morality and ethics tonight at
Saint Mary's College of California as part of a series intended to
advance the college's Lasallian Catholic values.
Saint Mary's College is located near San Francisco and is affiliated
with the Brothers of the Christian Schools, a Catholic order of
priests founded by St. John Baptist de la Salle. The college claims
to embrace core Lasallian values including "faith in the presence of
God" and "respect for all persons."
"Bill Ayers' honored presence at a Catholic college should offend not
only Catholics, but all men and women of good will," said Patrick J.
Reilly, President of The Cardinal Newman Society. "It is an affront
to basic human dignity and a scandal that a Catholic college should
provide a platform for a man who reportedly takes pride in terrorist
acts against the United States."
The Cardinal Newman Society has not received a response to a letter
faxed last Friday, January 23, to Brother Ronald Gallagher, F.S.C.,
president of Saint Mary's College, urging him to halt the lecture.
Saint Mary's College has invited Ayers to be a part of their "Against
the Grain" lecture series in which "students are challenged to think
in new ways and explore social justice issues as part of the
College's Lasallian heritage." Students "step out of their comfort
zones" and "explore new intellectual territory," the college claimed
in a press release.
Ayers is currently a professor of education at the University of
Illinois at Chicago. He is a co-founder of the Weather Underground,
which from 1968 to 1972 participated in several acts of domestic
terrorism, including setting off bombs at the New York City Police
Headquarters and the Pentagon.
In 2001 The New York Times reported Ayers to have said, "I don't
regret setting bombs ... I feel we didn't do enough."
The full title of Ayers' scheduled talk is "Trudging Toward Freedom:
Moral Commitment and Ethical Action in the Classroom."
"The Catholic Church has clear teachings on authentic freedom,
morality and ethics," Reilly said. "Bill Ayers has no place
lecturing at a sincerely Catholic college."
When Pope Benedict XVI addressed Catholic college presidents last
April in Washington, D.C., he warned: "Only in faith can truth become
incarnate and reason truly human, capable of directing the will along
the path of freedom. In this way our [educational] institutions make
a vital contribution to the mission of the Church and truly serve society."
Bill Ayers Draws Zoo at St. Mary's
by Chris Thompson
January 29, 2009
Bill Ayers showed up to speak at St. Mary's College last night, and
so did about 150 people determined to denounce his presence, at the
behest of former KSFO talk show host Melanie Morgan. The Chron sez
the crowd signs reading, "Ayers lied, innocents died," and chanted,
"Terrorist go home." Inside the hall at the Soda Center, Ayers was
ostensibly there to promote a book he wrote with his wife, fellow
Weather Underground member Bernadine Dohrn, about race relations. But
his election-season notoriety simultaneously overrode the subject and
guaranteed a big turnout. As Ayers said, "Had it not been for the
recent presidential campaign, there would be 22 of you here."
Bill Ayers & U of M: Paling Around In Ann Arbor
29 January, 2009
by Mike Wrathell
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Former U of M student Bill Ayers and his wife
Bernadine Dohrn, formerly #1 on the FBI's Most Wanted, were in Ann
Arbor on Monday, guests of U of M and Shaman Drum Bookstore. When
introduced by a U of M librarian and the bookstore owner, Bill and
Bernadine got a disturbingly warm round of applause for a pair of
"washed-up terrorists," to paraphrase Senator John McCain. The
applause was not as loud as the bombs they set off all over our
nation, but still, it was loud enough to disturb me deeply. One hand
clapping would have disturbed me, too, though, in the interest of
Ayers said he would not defend the bombings The Weather Underground
did back in the 1960's to protest the Vietnam War and other pet
issues, but said one of the group's shortcomings was "we didn't
doubt." Nothing like a bunch of self-righteous rich college kids with
bombs, huh? Ms. Dohrn added, "We were never terrorists." But can you
believe a terrorist when they say they are not a terrorist? The
majority of the crowd of 200 or so people at U of M's massive
graduate library seemed to buy their bosh hook, line, and sinker.
Bill did not mention his old flame Diana Oughton, who, along with two
other Weather Underground members, died while making a nail bomb in
New York City in 1970.
A few days ago, The Detroit Free Press asked Ayers about The Weather
Underground plot to blow up the 13th Precinct in Detroit. He denied
any knowledge of it. I was planning on asking him about it, and was
going to wear my late father's "15th Precinct" ball cap. My dad's
nickname was "Ratman" when he was a Detroit police officer, and,
later, a sergeant. Instead, I wore the CIA ball cap I got at Ground
Zero. I was a big hit.
That question bearing no fruit, I thought of one that he hadn't been
asked, as far as I know. I wrote it on an index card that was placed
on each chair as I walked in the room, early enough to get an aisle
seat. "Why did you trample on the American flag on the August 2001
cover of "Chicago" magazine, an act that could be interpreted as
hating America itself, and will you apologize for this act?"
Luckily, during the Q & A after their spiels mercifully ended, the
master librarian of U of M, who seemed so very pleased with himself
for hosting such illustrious washed-up domestic terrorists, read them
my question. Ayers and Dohrn had stood together at the podium for the
preceding questions and answered them with tag-team spiel, but for
this one Bernadine made Bill take it on the chin alone. We later
found out why. He approached the podium tentatively, like a boy
caught with his hand in the cookie jar.
First, he sidestepped all responsibility by saying it was his
publicist's idea, then he attacked me for a "false narrative" for
questioning his love of country, yet he did not seize the moment to
assure the gathering of his love of America. As one who has described
himself as a "street communist," and one who wants to demilitarize
America and be mere equals with nations like Iran and North Korea who
supply terrorists, it did not surprise me at all, and had he said he
loved America, I suspect it would have rung false, even, perhaps, to
an Ann Arborite. Perhaps.
Bernadine then got up and mentioned all the "faux patriots" who
brandished American flags after 9/11, a month after her little street
communist husband's dastardly magazine covershot. I suppose trampling
on the American flag is the mark of a true patriot in their little
red book? By the way, Ayers said the photo only appeared online. He
also said it was pre-9/11, as another paltry, sheepish excuse.
Ms. Dohrn did do one thing cool, though. She said she walked out of
the room before brave little Billy posed for the "Chicago" magazine
photographer. "It was just stupid," she explained a bit later. The
crowd laughed with her, and I smiled, having drawn them out, finally
after over an hour of washed and faded rhetoric. They must have
mentioned MLK a half trillion times, even though he was for
non-violent protest. Her statement goes along well with her
obsequious husband's statement: "There are a lot of educated fools in
the world." Yeah, Bill, we know. Look in the mirror, bucco!
Yes, Bill, you are a fool if you think trampling on the American flag
is the sign of a true patriot and putting a flag on the antennae of
your car like I did after 9/11 is the act of a faux patriot. America
is the home of the brave, yet you can't apologize for anything at
all. Yeah, Vietnam was highly protestable. Okay. Even General Douglas
MacArthur thought America should avoid wars on the Asian continent.
But bombing domestic targets is not the sort of dissent our Founding
Fathers allowed in the Constitution. And you trampled on the flag in 2001!
Ms. Dohrn said it is a "strange world and culture that we live in."
Yes, but those bombs of yours, you made yourself. It was not our
culture that made them. Take some responsibility. She is actually a
lawyer now, like me, sworn to uphold the U.S. Constitution. Scary.
Maybe that is why she felt a need to distance herself from obsequious
Bill who does whatever his publicist tells him to do, apparently.
What a "leader." For being one of the "leaders" of The Weather
Underground, he sure can be a real sheep, my apologies to sheep. At
least Bernadine knew it was a baaaahhhhhhddd idea and walked away from it.
The next question was a soft beachball about how their marriage has
lasted all these years. Maybe U of M President Mary Sue Coleman asked
that one. Bernadine said that Bill was such a fun guy to be around.
"Like when I stand on the flag?" he queried. "No, that was just
stupid," Bernandine responded back. The crowd laughed. It was the
first time I ever saw Bernadine in a positive light. Ann Arbor was
part of America for that one moment......just kidding......*s*
I had succeeded in driving a public wedge between two washed-up
domestic terrorists who were drawn together romantically by an
early-detonated nail bomb, a bomb that may have killed more than just
three bad actors had it gone Bill Ayers' way. Bill Ayers said that
Bernadine had been with the wrong man for 37 years. I am not sure
what that means. Maybe she was involved with one of the two men who
died with Diana Oughton from the nails being rocketed into their
vital organs in that Greenwich Village apartment. Maybe she was with
both of them. I saw the documentary "The Weather Underground" and
they were into group sex, sort of a communist belief in the
abandonment of self and property rights. One of Bill's reported
maxims is "Kill your parents!" Educated fools, indeed!
U of M should be ashamed of itself for hosting such misguided, though
educated foolish washed-up terrorists at the grad library. U of M is
lucky The Weather Underground didn't blow up the grad library in the
60's for the ROTC branch it has on campus, in fact.
I used to study at the grad library all the time. I remember floor 4A
was cool, my secret study crypt. I learned about Dadaism and German
Expressionism there and would not be the artist that I am but for its
Now U of M is in shambles, hosting terrorists, keeping a president
with an honorary degree from Notre Dame who seems hell-bent on
running our football program into the ground while mindlessly
cheerleading for diversity with a bullhorn in the Diag as she rakes
in half a million a year!
I had to do something. I diverted my homecoming from a vacation to
confront Bill Ayers. I was tempted to throw a large dollop of Faygo
red pop in his face, but I am glad I took the peaceful route and
called him out on his trampling of the American flag stunt. He threw
red pop on his own face by having to come clean about his own
behavior for one fleeting moment in his life. I hope the issue dogs
him for the rest of his life and other members of the media continue
to ask him to apologize. He will not even admit to personal
participation in bombings in the 60's and 70's, but this is one act
that he got caught red, white, and blue-footed doing, and he needs to
be pressed about it until he cracks, and then some. Okay? Please?
Pretty please with brown sugar on it? Or do you get a tingling
sensation when you're near a pal of our President?