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.