A 1960s terrorist, activist and current professor from the University of Illinois at Chicago, Bill Ayers came to Knox College on April 19 to speak on a variety of issues. The Knox student led group, Alliance for Peaceful Action (APA), sponsored the event.
The 67-year-old radical was charming. Hip -looking, wearing a black cap, earrings and a down red vest, Ayers introduced himself to most students on a one-by-one basis. In fact, he asked most people in the crowd, including me, what our major was and what we planned to do with our college degrees. He smiled at everyone and shook hands with students and Galesburg residents. He seemed like a wonderful person. But this pleasant man has a very questionable past.
Students in the crowd seemed ignorant of the fact that Ayers founded the Weather Underground movement. Ayers was asked about the current Kony 2012 campaign, Trayvon Martin and the issue of campaign finance, but no one asked him about his controversial biography.
This is not a conservative or liberal issue, mind you. It’s an accountability issue. An organization like APA, which stands against violence, welcomed a man who founded an organization that planted bombs to kill government officials in order to protest the Vietnam War. It is highly hypocritical and appalling of APA to invite Bill Ayers. The Knox group itself presents their mission statement and goals on the Knox website and uses Bill Ayers’ picture to represent their cause (http://tinyurl.com/8a857xx).
A Knox organization that stands for peace should not welcome a man that perpetrated terrorist attacks. Bill Ayers’ group bombed several Chicago Police cars in the early 1970s, for example. Ayers personally participated in the bombings of the Washington D.C. Capitol building in 1971 and the Pentagon in 1972. He even lost three friends, including his girlfriend, while making bombs in New York City (http://tinyurl.com/863atc2). But Ayers is far from apologetic.
I asked him if he regretted any of his wrongdoings from the late 1960s and early 1970s. “I still think I was right about opposing that war,” Ayers commented about the Vietnam War. Ayers continued by saying, “I did what I did. I can defend whatever I did … we wanted to take the war over to them.”
Ayers still believes that he felt justified in terrorizing government officials. He washed his hands and said, “I didn’t kill anybody. I destroyed some [government] property.”
This pleasant-looking man tormented our government. It doesn’t matter what your opinion is on Vietnam, terrorism is not the answer and certainly violates APA’s goals. Bill Ayers and the Weather Underground violated their goals in “Creating a tolerant and respectful world community … Having compassion toward others and valuing every human life … [and most importantly] Standing in solidarity against oppression and violence perpetrated by any group or individual” (http://tinyurl.com/8a857xx).
APA should distance itself from Bill Ayers. People like this should not be welcomed onto our campus, especially when he stands against that particular organization’s goals. Trust me, I believe in redemption, but when a man does not regret bombing people then there is a problem. Who knows, has this man changed?
“’I don’t regret setting bombs … I feel we didn’t do enough,’” Ayers said in a 2001 New York Times interview (http://tinyurl.com/7h9g6uh).