Ayers speaks at UW

The bat­tle is over and Meg Lanker reached her goal. On April 28th, at 7 p.m. Dr. William Ayers spoke at the Small Sports Com­plex at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Wyoming. The pro­test­ers along the side­walk to the door were qui­et with their signs as stu­dents, pro­fes­sors and com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers alike filled the gym.

Due to pre­vi­ous threats of vio­lence when Dr. Ayers was sched­uled the first time, intense secu­ri­ty mea­sures were put in place. Every­one enter­ing the com­plex was searched and bags were exam­ined before enter­ing the bleach­ers. Police offi­cers with bomb dogs stood next to the entrances and along the walls sev­er­al oth­er offi­cers stood at the ready, but the audi­ence was calm.

The con­tro­ver­sy build­ing up to this appear­ance of Dr. Ayers elicit­ed a crowd that exceed­ed by mul­ti­ple times the pos­si­ble atten­dees to the intend­ed pre­sen­ta­tion on April 5th. With the debate and law­suit about his appear­ance well in mind, the audi­ence was keen to hear what Dr. Ayers him­self had to say about the con­tro­ver­sy regard­ing his pres­ence on cam­pus. Those atten­dees hop­ing to hear him berate the UW admin­is­tra­tion were out of luck. The civil­i­ty which with Dr. Ayers addressed the con­tro­ver­sy set the tone for the evening.

…It is impor­tant to note that an invi­ta­tion is in no way an endorse­ment, Dr. Ayers said about the con­tro­ver­sy and refer­ring the influx of crit­i­cisms Dr. Fran­cis­co Rios had received when the out­rage and sub­se­quent can­cel­la­tion first hit cam­pus. Fol­low­ing the brief recog­ni­tion of the con­tro­ver­sy, Dr. Ayers began his pre­sen­ta­tion on edu­ca­tion in the Unit­ed States. His speech start­ed by exam­in­ing the moment in which we live today. He brought the audi­ence through the changes that gave women the right to vote and abol­ished slav­ery. End­ing these injus­tices took an insur­rec­tion in think­ing and this is real­ly the theme of what I want to talk about tonight- an insur­rec­tion in think­ing. That is, all of us, every one of us, all the time, is trapped in a cer­tain kind of com­mon sense, a cer­tain kind of moment, Dr. Ayers said.

The ener­gy and inspi­ra­tion in his speech evoked in the audi­ence the dis­cus­sion that he had antic­i­pat­ed the first time he was invit­ed to UW. Despite the huge atten­dance, the dia­logue that fol­lowed his pre­sen­ta­tion cre­at­ed an envi­ron­ment of mutu­al teach­ing and learn­ing, even when two mem­bers of audi­ence ques­tioned him about his past actions as a mem­ber of the Weath­er Under­ground. While their com­ments and ques­tions were less than cor­dial at points, Dr. Ayers answered them with respect and calm.

The evening end­ed with a sense of appre­ci­a­tion for the process Lanker, Dr. Ayers and sev­er­al oth­er mem­bers of the Uni­ver­si­ty went through to ensure that free­dom of speech was kept alive at UW.