Friday, October 10, 2008

Obama & Ayers

I have been doing some research on the connection between Bill Ayers and Barack Obama.

Bill Ayers was part of the radical left in the sixties and seventies. He helped to found the Weatherman, a more militant version of the SDS -- Students for a Democratic Society. He was a leader in this group -- responsible for bombings of statues and buildings during this time period.
Bill and his wife, Bernardine Dohrn went underground for several years. When the U.S. government in 1977 dropped the charges against Ayers and his wife because of prosecutorial misconduct --- they resurfaced and entered American society again.

William Ayers, since then, as far as I can see has led a life devoted to working towards social justice, eradicating poverty, helping urban youth overcome their problems. In pursuing this course he has become a well known and respected educator, a "Distinguished Professor," in the College of Education, University of Illinois at Chicago. He teaches primarily in these areas: social justice, urban educational reform, narrative and interpretive research, children in trouble with the law, and related issues.

In 1997, the city of Chicago named Ayers "Citizen of the Year," for his dedicated work on behalf of the poor. He has been for many years a valued member of the Woods Fund of Chicago, founded in 1941, a philanthropic foundation combating poverty. Diane Harrington, the president of this group has said that Bill Ayers is and has been on their board because of his academic credentials and his "passion for social justice".

When Bill Ayers was engaged in "radical" politics, Obama was a child, eight to twelve years old.

Obama became actually acquainted with Professor William Ayers in 1995 at a luncheon of those interested in school reform in Chicago. Obama was teaching law at the University of Chicago and Ayers an educator interested in eradicating poverty and urban squalor.

Without going into great detail, I can say that I consulted about six to seven good sources including the Washington Post and these are my conclusions:

• Ayers since the eighties has been quite a different person than he was in the sixities and part of the seventies. He has a thirst for social justice and concern for the poor. He has attended numerous institutions of higher learning which led to his position of Distinguished Professor in the College of Education at his university. This title is given by the faculty to the one they feel deserves it for his work in the classroom and in the larger society. He is a leader in his academic world and much admired among the vast majority of Chicagoans for his selfless work in helping that city. Naturally, there are those who still remember his role in the sixties, and can never forgive him. As a personal aside -- may I say that if Jesus can forgive and if Jesus spent a very large part of his ministry tending to the poor and the downtrodden --- these harsh criticis should not only find it in their hearts to forgive, but to admire his man who has come to the place he is today.

• I found numerous times when Ayers and Obama's paths crossed from the mid-nineties until the start of Obama's campaign. They were all at places and doing things in a group, sometimes small and sometimes large where their interests converged. Since they both have interests in improving society especially for those who need it the most --- this is hardly unnatural and certainly not suspicious.

John McCain has not been without things in his political career for which he can be proud. He promised quite emphasically at the beginning of his quest for the Presidency that he would run a clean, honest, truthful campaign. I do not believe he has done that, and his desperate attempt to make something out of nothing, i.e. "the Ayers Connection," is disappointing for any who had respect for him. It's not a good way to come to the end of one's career.