Ayers tells Brandeis students to open their eyes
By Ariel Wittenberg/Daily News correspondent
Posted May 01, 2009
WALTHAM Former Weather Underground member William Ayers spoke to
Brandeis students last night about the three steps it takes to be an
activist and make a difference in the world.
Open their eyes, act, and then question their actions, said Ayers,
who was invited to speak at the university's Shapiro Campus Center by
Students for a Democratic Society and Democracy for America. Only
Brandeis students and professors were allowed to attend.
"Opening your eyes is easier to say than it is to do," he said to an
audience of about 100. "You don't want to know too much because if
you know too much, that means you're required to do something. But we
must look and see what's happening."
Ayers continued to say that after one sees what is happening, one
must act "in the public square, even if it's an imperfect act, you
must do something."
Even more important than taking action, however, Ayers said, is for
students to evaluate those actions and ask themselves if they had
learned anything and if they had taught anyone.
"If you don't do those two things, you get smug and you have an
inability to doubt your actions that results in dogma," he said
during the 1<+>1<+>/<->2<-> hour event. "You get too caught up in the
well-lit prison cell of a single idea and then that runs amok, and
you don't have to be a hardcore leftist or one of the Fox News loons."
Ayers said he is worried that with the election of President Barack
Obama, many people would put all of the responsibility to change the
world on Obama, and neglect to act themselves.
"Every time I hear someone say to me 'Oh, I hope Obama will do this,'
'I hope Obama will do that,' I turn around and ask, 'Well, what did
you do today to accomplish that?"'
"Obama will not save us," he said. "But with any luck, we can
organize and we can save Obama."
While Ayers largely avoided his Weather Underground past during his
speech, during the question-and-answer session he discussed what his
time as an extremist taught him about the 1960s.
"Probably the biggest weakness of the Weather Underground was that we
were so caught up in our own dogma, we never re-evaluated," he said.
"We never stopped to realize that in reality, we didn't end the war."
Ayers did make reference to the student protesters just outside of
the auditorium, saying that he supports their right to free speech;
however, he doubted whether the protesters would be there if his name
hadn't come up in the 2008 presidential campaigns.
"'Pallin' around with terrorists.' I love that phrase. It makes me
look like I was sharing a milk shake with two straws with Obama," he said.
He also gave a jab to one-time Republican vice presidential candidate
Sarah Palin who used that phrase.
"But, in all seriousness, I'm tempted to thank my agent Sarah Palin
for bringing out this audience tonight. Because I spoke at
universities before the election and no one ever cared as much as they do now."
Outside of the auditorium, a group of student protesters stood in a
"free speech zone" designated by Brandeis Public Safety for members
of the community who disagreed with Ayers' speech.
In the zone were students from Brandeis, Bentley University, Babson
College and College of the Holy Cross.
Andrew Crowley, a junior at Holy Cross said "I think Bill Ayers ought
to be in jail."
"If I were a Brandeis student, I would be dissatisfied with the way
my money was being spent."
Protesters start early for Ayers' Waltham visit
By Richard Conn/Daily News staff
GateHouse News Service
Posted Apr 30, 2009
WALTHAM Protesters lined up early to voice opposition to an
appearance tonight by controversial political activist and former
radical William Ayers at Brandeis University.
Ayers, now a professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, was
once a member of the radical militant group the Weather Underground
Organization, which was responsible for several bombings during the
1960s and 1970s.
Members of the Weather Underground were also allegedly involved in
the murder of a Boston Police officer, Walter Schroeder, during a
1970 bank robbery.
The protest was organized by Michelle McPhee, a journalist and radio
talk show host at 96.9 WTKK. McPhee called the university's decision
to let Ayers speak "repugnant" given his connection to the Weather
Underground, and the fact that Schroeder's daughter, Clare Schroeder
is a sergeant in the Waltham Police Department.
"This is akin to a college in lower Manhattan inviting Osama bin
Laden down to give a lecture," McPhee said.
Wayne Hancock, a Clinton resident and Waltham native, who is a state
corrections officer, said he showed up at the protest as a sign of
support for Schroeder's family. Hancock carried a sign that said
"Don't support Ayers pollution."
"Who he is and what he's done is what I'm here to protest," Hancock
said of Ayers.
One young man, who did not want his name published, but later
identified himself as a high school student, wore a Boston College
cap which he had designed to say "BC is greater than Brandeis in morality."
Boston College canceled a scheduled appearance by Ayers in March.
Meanwhile, Brandeis released a series of "clarifications" regarding
Ayers' appearance last night.
"Allowing the talk to proceed does not mean that Brandeis as an
institution or its administration, or any particular member or
members of the campus community supports/condones this speaker, his
past or his viewpoints," the statement said. "Two student groups,
Students for a Democratic Society and Democracy for America,
organized and secured funding for this event. It is their event."
Sarafina "Sally" Collura, who is a Waltham city councilor, joined the
protest carrying a sign that said "Bill Ayers - Home Grown Terrorist."
She said Ayers shouldn't be allowed to speak tonight unless he
professes remorse about his radical past.
Otherwise, she said, students could learn all they needed to know
about Ayers online.
"If you want to learn about Bill Ayers, all you have to do is Google
him and Google Weather Underground," Collura said.
Richard Conn can be contacted at 781-398-8004 or email@example.com.
William Ayers to speak at Brandeis Thursday night
April 30, 2009
By Jenna Nierstedt, Globe Correspondent
Former radical William Ayers will finally get a chance tonight to be
heard on a Massachusetts college campus.
The onetime member of the 1960s militant antiwar organization the
Weather Underground will speak at 9 p.m. at Brandeis University in
Waltham. It will come more than two months after Boston College
canceled a scheduled appearance by Ayers.
"This is about freedom of educational opportunity," Brandeis
spokesman Dennis Nealon told the Globe last week. "The university has
made it clear that it is not going to bar the talk despite the
controversial nature of the speaker."
Ayers will speak about "lessons learned from the antiwar movement,"
said Lev Hirschhorn, a sophomore and a campaign coordinator for
Democracy for America, one of two student organizations that invited
him. "He might have some interesting insights about the successes and
the failures of the movement."
Now an education professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago,
Ayers was blocked from speaking at Boston College March 30 by school
administrators who cited pressure from Brighton residents and Boston
police officers. Boston police Sergeant Walter Schroeder was killed
during a 1970 bank robbery in Brighton Center by radicals who some
law enforcement officials believed were linked to the Weather
Underground. Ayers was in Chicago during his time in the movement.
Brandeis has its own links to the 1970 shooting. One of Schroeder's
daughters is a police sergeant in Waltham. Two of those involved in
the robbery, Katherine Ann Power and Susan Saxe, were Brandeis
students. One of their accomplices shot Schroeder in the back.
The event will be held at the Shapiro Campus Center and is open to
members of the Brandeis community.
The sponsoring student groups held meetings beforehand to allow
members of the university community to learn more about Ayers and to
provide an opportunity to voice support or opposition to his appearance.
"Bill Ayers is a fairly controversial person undoubtedly, and we
think it's of value if he's coming to speak, for the community to be
able to speak about how they feel about him and the things he will
talk about," said Hirschhorn.
The other sponsor is Students for a Democratic Society. The
organizations said the idea for the invitation goes back to the
presidential election when the campaign of Republican nominee John
McCain accused Barack Obama of having ties to the former radical.
Liza Behrendt, a member of Democracy for America, said she brought up
the idea of a lecture by Ayers after the election issue made her
reconsider the meaning of the word "activist."
"College activists don't always weigh the process versus the end
goal," said Behrendt, a sophomore studying politics. "This will make
us consider the difference between a goal and a method, how to keep
your actions in line with your values. Bill Ayers won't provide
answers necessarily, but he will spark a conversation and be a
valuable and puzzling figure to ponder."
Ex-radical now low-key academic
Ayers to speak at rights fest
By BLAKE AUED | firstname.lastname@example.org
For the past 20 years, Bill Ayers has lived the low-key life of an
academic, writing books on education and teaching at the University
of Illinois at Chicago.
That's why Ayers said it was "surreal" when U.S. Sen. John McCain's
presidential campaign dredged up his past as a radical left-wing
activist, linking him to President Obama, a casual acquaintance.
Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, McCain's vice-presidential nominee,
memorably said that Obama was "palling around with terrorists."
The attention, Ayers said, was "unexpected and unwelcome," as well as
"The whole idea of Obama having shady friends was so dishonest from
top to bottom," he said.
Ayers is headlining the Athens Human Rights Festival this weekend -
he is scheduled to speak at 7 p.m. Sunday - but he won't be
discussing the presidential election or 1960s radical groups. He said
he'll give a speech on education as a human right.
"We ought to get back to the great tradition of education as
essential to freedom and democracy," he said.
Ayers' research focuses mostly on the ills of urban school districts
like Clarke County, where the child poverty rate is more than 30
percent and less than two-thirds of students graduate.
The solution, he said, is to turn control over to the people, not a
central bureaucracy. In Chicago, local councils run individual
schools, setting budgets and hiring the principal, he said.
High schools should also be smaller, he said - perhaps 500 students,
so that "every child is known well by a caring adult."
"You find kids engage much more creatively, much more fully, with the
experience of school," he said.
Although Ayers' main interest is now education, he was still willing
to talk politics in a recent interview with the Athens Banner-Herald.
He remains unapologetic about his days with the Weathermen, an
offshoot of the antiwar group Students for a Democratic Society that,
among other things, blew up a statue commemorating police killed in
an 1886 clash with unions, tried to set fire to the house of a judge
who was presiding over a Black Panthers trial and broke LSD advocate
Timothy Leary out of prison.
Ayers called himself "nonviolent." Other than the three Weathermen
killed when a nail bomb they were building exploded, he contends that
the Weathermen didn't hurt anyone and didn't try to, and he still
believes their actions were justified.
"Anyone who feels what the Weathermen did was despicable, I can
certainly understand why they feel that way," he said. "But I hope
they also feel that our government killing 6,000 human beings a day
(in Vietnam) was despicable."
The Weather Underground - renamed after the nail-bomb incident made
them fugitives - disbanded 30 years ago. After the federal government
dropped charges against him, Ayers went on to earn a doctorate and
become a nationally recognized expert on education. His political
views, though, remain far to the left.
He said he thinks President George W. Bush stole the election in 2000
and may have stolen it again in 2004. Bush Administration officials
who approved torture should be charged with war crimes in
international court, he said, comparing them to Vietnam-era leaders,
like those responsible for the My Lai massacre, who "were never
called to account."
"We hanged people in Japan (after World War II) for waterboarding our
soldiers," he said. "We know it's bad. The people who did it, who
knew about it, should be held accountable, absolutely."
As for Obama - a man he once attended a fundraiser for and served on
several boards with in Chicago - Ayers gave him mixed reviews. Obama
is intelligent, open-minded and compassionate, he said, but too
moderate on issues like torture.
"I think he's done some wonderful things symbolically, but he's also
done some things I worry about," Ayers said.
Politics, protests and 'Pals': Bill Ayers speaks at annual human
By BLAKE AUED | email@example.com
Bill Ayers can be proud of at least one thing: He helped add a new
phrase to the English lexicon.
In the 2008 presidential campaign, Republicans held up the 1960s
radical and other controversial figures like the Rev. Jeremiah Wright
as proof that Barack Obama had shadowy Chicago connections.
"I like the phrase 'palling around,' " Ayers said Sunday during a
speech in downtown Athens, referring to Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin
accusing Obama of "palling around with terrorists."
"I had this image of me and Barack Obama sharing a milk shake with
two straws, sort of cozy pals," Ayers said to a crowd of hundreds at
the 31st annual Human Rights Festival.
"It was so insane," he said. "(Republicans) have nothing - nothing -
going for them, so they raised this."
Although Ayers denies he had anything more than a casual relationship
with the president, he heaped praise on Obama during a speech and
question-and-answer period that lasted almost an hour.
On election night, Ayers said he stayed at Chicago's Grant Park,
where tens of thousands of people gathered, until 3 a.m. The crowd
shared a "palpable sense of relief" that the Bush administration had
ended, he said.
"It's one of those transcendental moments, like everybody my age
thinks there were at Woodstock," the 65-year-old said.
Ayers called the election of the first black president "a huge blow
against white supremacy" and a sign that the culture wars of the
1960s finally are over.
President Bill Clinton's campaigns in 1992 and '96 raised questions
about Baby-Boomer permissiveness when Clinton admitted to sampling
marijuana and cheating on his wife. When Sen. John Kerry ran against
President George W. Bush in 2004, the race dredged up unresolved
issues surrounding the Vietnam War that Kerry protested as a young veteran.
As the first Generation X-er to hold the office of president, Obama's
victory means many of the battle lines that haunted campaigns for
decades are gone for good, Ayers said.
"Every election from now on won't wave the bloody flag of the '60s," he said.
Both the conservatives who fear - and the liberals who hope - that
Obama is a closet socialist are wrong, Ayers said. But while Obama
might be open to leftist ideas, progressives should not wait for the
former community organizer to act, Ayers said. They should act themselves.
"It's movements on the ground that create the kinds of change we all
care about," he said.
As for his own activism - some would say terrorism - with the
left-wing group the Weathermen in the 1960s and early 1970s, Ayers
defended it as necessary to try to drag the United States out of
Vietnam. The effort was a failure, he said, because the civil rights
and anti-war movement splintered after President Richard Nixon's win
in 1968 and because the Weathermen became increasingly ideologically rigid.
"We acted, but we didn't question, and that's how you get into
dogma," Ayers said.
Calling the era commonly known as the '60s a "myth and symbol," Ayers
said told a mixed-age audience that young activists today are far
smarter than his generation, so there's no more need for a
Ayers, now an education professor at the University of Illinois at
Chicago, also criticized schools that teach conformity and obedience
rather than creativity and entrepreneurship. He called spending
disparities among school systems "an abomination, an obscenity,"
because equal access to education is a fundamental right.
Unlike some of Ayers' other speaking appearances, conservative
protesters didn't turn out for the Human Rights Festival, though one
man repeatedly shouted out questions about 9/11 conspiracies.
Security tab for visit by Ayers: $12,463
Millersville University says extra guards, training exercise costs
will be paid for by donations.
Lancaster New Era
Published: Apr 29, 2009
By CINDY STAUFFER, Staff Writer
Bill Ayers' visit to Millersville University last month required the
security efforts of almost 60 officers and cost $12,463.01.
The cost and manpower for the controversial visit by Ayers, a Chicago
education professor and a founder of the Weather Underground, a 1960s
radical protest group, included:
• $7,729.61 for the South Central Task Force, a regional
anti-terrorism group that used the visit as a training exercise.
The group sent 25 police officers from 10 jurisdictions.
The money is being used to cover either the cost of filling the
officers' positions while they were at the Ayers' event, or their overtime.
• $3,008.54 for Millersville Borough.
The municipality used eight officers to help provide security.
• $1,724.96 for Security Guards Inc., a Wyomissing company.
The company sent 13 security guards to the event.
The university also used the services of 12 of its officers to cover
the event throughout the day. They were regularly on duty at that
time, however, so MU did not incur additional costs from them.
The added security costs are being funded by undesignated donations
to the university, said MU spokeswoman Janet Kacskos.
MU officials were apprehensive about Ayers' visit, saying they got
vulgar and threatening calls about it. His trips to other campuses
have sparked disruptions and at least one arrest.
At MU, security officers used a metal detector to check about 300
people before they entered the room where Ayers spoke.
Officers also closed streets and kept a watchful eye on a small group
of people, including both Ayers' supporters and protesters. There
were no incidents outside or inside the room where the speech was given.
The Ayers visit was out of the ordinary for the university. Normally,
for a large event MU would use six to eight of its own campus police
officers and six to eight additional security guards, at a cost of
$1,200 to $2,500.
The anti-terrorism task force initially said it would use federal
funds to pay for the officers it sent to the speech.
But the university told the group it could be reimbursed, and it
decided to submit a bill for its services, said Greg Noll, program
manger for the task force.
Staff writer Cindy Stauffer can be reached at cstauffer@LNPnews.com
Anti-war activist to speak at Lake Park forum
By Elisabeth Mistretta | Daily Herald Staff
When former Weather Underground leader Bill Ayers planned to speak at
a Naperville high school last month, a firestorm of protest erupted,
leading to cancellation of the visit.
But just last year and in 2007, Ayers talked to a class at Lake Park
High School in Roselle without incident. And a visit to the school
today by his wife, fellow anti-Vietnam War activist Bernardine Dohrn,
is being met with nary a word of protest. Dohrn, an associate
professor of law at Northwestern University and director and founder
of Northwestern's Children and Family Justice Center, will be among
18 speakers to address high school juniors during Lake Park's annual
War and Peace Forum.
A school spokeswoman said Ayers' two appearances drew no negative feedback.
"In fact, when Bill Ayers was scheduled to speak last year, two of
our fellow speakers told us that, if we pulled him from the panel,
they would not have attended our forum," said Jennifer Jones Wilk,
spokeswoman for Lake Park.
Last month Ayers, an education professor at University of Illinois at
Chicago, was scheduled to speak at both Naperville North High School
and Anderson's Book Shop in Naperville. But when the community
learned of his planned appearances, some residents flooded Naperville
Unit District 203 and Anderson's with angry phone calls and e-mails -
prompting both to cancel their events.
Dohrn is making her first visit to Lake Park. She also was a leader
in the Weather Underground, a group responsible for a series of
bombings at public buildings in the 1960s and '70s.
The War and Peace Forum is a voluntary, in-school field trip for all
junior students who have been studying the Vietnam War in their
social studies classes and reading the Vietnam-themed book "The
Things They Carried" in English units, school officials said.
Social Studies teacher Chuck Smith said all students have been
informed about the background of the 18 speakers - who include
Vietnam and Iraq war veterans, prisoners of war and war dissenters -
and may opt out of listening to anyone they find objectionable.
"In the past we did have a few students say they didn't care to hear
from Mr. Ayers, but it was not a large number," he said. "When Bill
Ayers did speak, however, his points weren't so much focused on the
Vietnam experience but, instead, to talk about problems now in our
society and emphasize getting involved."
Lake Park officials say Dohrn's message will be similar on Wednesday.
Her appearance, along with all of the other speakers, is unpaid.