Bill Ayers: We're all works in progress
BLOOMINGTON -- Even with 65 years of life and a world of experiences
behind him, Bill Ayers believes he is still a work in progress.
Ayers, a former antiwar activist with the notorious Weather
Underground and now a distinguished professor of education and senior
university scholar at the University of Illinois at Chicago, spoke to
a crowd of approximately 300 people at Illinois Wesleyan's Hansen
He said he still enjoys learning and teaching.
"I still think of myself as having more stuff to do," Ayers said. "I
think everyone is a work in progress no matter how old you are. What
you do and what you don't do will make a difference. Be an ethical
person. Be a person of democracy or be an activist."
Ayers' 40-minute speech and 60-minute question-and-answer session
focused on education. Only occasionally did he reference his
background as an antiwar activist.
The Weather Underground claimed responsibility for bombings of public
buildings to oppose the Vietnam War. During the 2008 presidential
campaign, Ayers' past returned to the spotlight as conservative
critics linked him with then-candidate Barack Obama.
"There are a lot of things I should apologize for, but I am not going
to do that," Ayers said of his activist past. "I've been arrested
over 20 times and the first time was in 1965 for opposing the Vietnam
War. I am not defending what I did, but in that war, 6,000 people a
week were being murdered and that happened for 10 years. I felt
Vietnam was a despicable war."
Tim and Sharon Kraft of Towanda were among those opposed to Ayers'
stop in Bloomington. They arrived after they attended the Tax Day Tea
Party in downtown Bloomington.
"I'm among the few old enough to remember who he is," Tim Kraft said
of Ayers. "This guy left an awful reputation for himself and his
organization in the eyes of our country. He came to town, and I'm against him."
Tanner Thoman of Bloomington sat across the street from the Hansen
Center to watch the events unfold.
"I support the idea of him speaking," Thoman said. "I wasn't as
interested in his lecture; I was more interested in the events
outside. I'm very disappointed."
Only three IWU students protested outside the student center before
and during the speech and a few people joined them from the tea party
event in downtown Bloomington. They were outnumbered by off-duty
police officers who were there for security.
June Daly of Bloomington also watched from across the street. Her
son, Jonathan, a junior at IWU, was inside listening to Ayers' speech.
She said they were avid watchers of the presidential race and because
Ayers played a role, "we were intrigued with what he had to say ...
and wondered what reaction Bloomington-Normal would have."
The event was sponsored by the Illinois Wesleyan Peace Fellows,
Global Politics Society and the private university's history department.
"It was very interesting and very educational," said Monica Shah, a
member of the ISU Peace Fellows. "He's an amazing speaker and we also
had a lot of great questions from the audience, so I really enjoyed
the whole event."
Anti-war leader Bill Ayers to speak on IWU campus
BLOOMINGTON - Illinois Wesleyan University leaders won't cancel a
talk on education policy by Bill Ayers tonight despite controversy
still surrounding his Vietnam-era activity.
The former antiwar leader with the Weather Underground is scheduled
to speak at 7 p.m. at Hansen Student Center, 300 Beecher St.,
Bloomington. His speech, "Education in and for Democracy: Teaching
and Learning in the Age of Obama," will open to the public, but about
200 of the 325 seats are reserved for IWU faculty, staff and students.
Diane Benjamin, organizer of the McLean County Tea Party Movement, is
encouraging those attending a Tax Day Tea Party downtown Thursday to
make signs and join IWU students who plan to protest Ayers. The
anti-tax rally is expected to start at 6 p.m. at the McLean County
Museum of History, 200 N. Main St.
She said Ayers' views "are 180 degrees away from the way most
Americans feel," and she suggested he would promote a "radical,
Ayers said he welcomes the tea party participants.
"I urge all taxpayer people to come to talk and disagree and make
counterpoints," he told The Pantagraph in a telephone interview. "I
don't want to restrict anyone from coming."
The professor was invited to Bloomington by two IWU student groups,
said Matt Kurz, IWU communications vice president. The IWU Web site
lists the Peace Fellows and Global Politics Society, along with the
history department, as event sponsors.
The university had no plans Wednesday to cancel the educator's presentation.
"What college campuses are about - all college campuses - they are
about encouraging discussion of ideas," said Kurz.
Bloomington police spokesman Duane Moss said his department is
working with other agencies "to develop a security plan that should
protect the freedom of speech rights of those involved, along with
the safety of the public."
The Weather Underground claimed responsibility for bombings of public
buildings to oppose U.S. involvement in Southeast Asia. During the
2008 presidential campaign, Ayers' past returned to the spotlight as
conservative critics linked him with then-candidate Barack Obama.
Ayers now is a distinguished professor of education and senior
university scholar at the University of Illinois at Chicago. His
academic interests include social justice, urban educational reform,
narrative and interpretive research, children in trouble with the
law, and related issues, according to his profile on the UIC Web site.
He has spoken previously at Illinois State University.
On Wednesday, IWU students enjoyed 90-degree temperatures on the
quad, walking to class or lounging on blankets spread across the
grass. When asked about Ayers and the controversy over his visit to
IWU, most admitted not knowing about the event or even being familiar
But there seemed to be consensus that regardless of his past, he
should be allowed to speak.
David Martz, a freshman from Glen Ellyn, said Ayers should be judged
on what he's doing now. "Around the time of the Vietnam War - that
was a polarizing time," he said. "People may have acted on things
they don't believe in today. I think that was a long time ago."
"It's fine. I don't endorse his point of view, but he should be
allowed to speak here," said Jessica Gorecki, a sophomore from Elk Grove.
Ayers noted his invitation came from IWU students.
"This is a small group of students who invited me," Ayers said. "It
is no way an endorsement by the university or the person inviting me.
This is an absolute legitimate role for a student group."
IWU junior Zach Hasselbring of Bloomington said students likely will
protest outside Hansen and others inside will ask questions of Ayers.
"He's not somebody we really like to come to our university,"
Hasselbring said. "I support the First Amendment fully and Wesleyan
has the ability to invite anyone." But Hasselbring said he opposes
inviting a "self-admitted radical leftist" without also inviting
someone with conservative views.
IWU junior Ryan Goetz of Schaumburg disagreed, saying, "I don't think
asking someone to speak is an endorsement of their views."
Last month, the University of Wyoming canceled two planned talks by
Ayers citing "security threats" and "controversy."
Police to sweep IWU student center before Ayers speech
April 15, 2010
BLOOMINGTON -- Hansen Student Center at Illinois Wesleyan University
will close at 5 p.m. so police can do a sweep of the building to be
sure it's secure before an expected 300 people attend a speech by Bill Ayers.
Matt Kurz, IWU vice president of public relations, said the
university is paying off-duty Bloomington police officers to provide
security at Ayers' speech, which is expected to draw protests from
some students and others attending a Tax Day Tea Party.
"Their (police) suggestion was to do a sweep of the building to make
sure it's secure," Kurz said.
Doors to the center at 300 Beecher St. will reopen at 6:45 p.m. It
has a seating capacity of 325 but about 200 seats will be reserved
for students, faculty and staff.
Ayers, a former antiwar leader with the Weather Underground and now a
distinguished professor of education and senior university scholar at
the University of Illinois at Chicago, is speaking at 7 p.m. on
"Education in and for Democracy: Teaching and Learning in the Age of Obama."
The McLean County Tea Party Movement is having its Tax Day Tea Party
at 6 p.m. outside the McLean County Museum of History, 200 N. Main St.
Weather Underground co-founder says he won't defend radical acts, but
won't apologize, either
April 16, 2010
BLOOMINGTON, Ill. (AP) William Ayers says there are many things he
should apologize for but says he won't be saying he's sorry.
The former 1960s radical told about 300 people at Illinois Wesleyan
University in Bloomington that he won't defend his past actions. He
said he acted against what he called a despicable war in Vietnam.
Ayers was the co-founder of the Vietnam War-era Weather Underground.
The group claimed responsibility for bombings that included
explosions at the Pentagon and U.S. Capitol that didn't kill anyone.
Ayers is an education professor at the University of Illinois-Chicago.
His associations with Barack Obama became a campaign issue in 2008
when Sarah Palin accused Obama of "palling around with terrorists."