Federal Campaign Notebook

That Guy in Obama’s Neighborhood Speaks

By Kathleen Kennedy Manzo — November 07, 2008 1 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

William C. Ayers has resisted press interviews amid attempts by Republicans and others to draw a close association between him and Barack Obama during the presidential campaign.

The two had served on the board of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, but Mr. Obama’s critics described the relationship as more nefarious, highlighting Mr. Ayers’ involvement with a violent anti-war group during the Vietnam War era.

But last week, Mr. Ayers, an education professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, broke his silence when a reporter for The Washington Post knocked on his door on Election Day.

On the Stoop: Education professor William C. Ayers outside his home in Chicago's Hyde Park neighborhood on Nov. 4.

Mr. Ayers described his relationship with the candidate as similar to that of “thousands and thousands” of people in Chicago, and said he wished he knew Mr. Obama better.

“Pal around together? What does that mean? Share a milkshake with two straws?” Mr. Ayers told the Post, in a reference to the Oct. 4 speech by Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin that accused Mr. Obama of “palling around with terrorists.”

Mr. Ayers did not respond to e-mail or phone inquiries from Education Week after Election Day. Last month, this newspaper published detailed reports about the role of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge in that city’s school reform efforts and the controversy over Mr. Ayers’ ties to Mr. Obama. (“Chicago Annenberg Challenge in Spotlight,” Oct. 15, 2008.)

Mr. Ayers’ home in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood is across the street from the polling place where he cast his ballot—the same location where Barack and Michelle Obama and Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan voted, the Post’s Nov. 5 story noted.

The professor has been described as unrepentant for his role in the radical group the Weather Underground, which was responsible for bombings at the Pentagon, the U.S. Capitol, and other sites. No one was injured in those attacks, but three members of the group died when a bomb they were constructing in a New York City townhouse detonated early.

Mr. Ayers told the Post he never wished he’d set more bombs.

But in the interview, Mr. Ayers did express some regrets.

“I wish I’d been wiser. I wish I’d been more effective,” he told Post reporter Peter Slevin. “I wish I’d been more unifying. I wish I’d been more principled.”

Related Tags:

A version of this article appeared in the November 12, 2008 edition of Education Week

Events

English-Language Learners Webinar Helping English-Learners Through Improved Parent Outreach: Strategies That Work
Communicating with families is key to helping students thrive – and that’s become even more apparent during a pandemic that’s upended student well-being and forced constant logistical changes in schools. Educators should pay particular attention
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Mathematics Webinar
Addressing Unfinished Learning in Math: Providing Tutoring at Scale
Most states as well as the federal government have landed on tutoring as a key strategy to address unfinished learning from the pandemic. Take math, for example. Studies have found that students lost more ground
Content provided by Yup Math Tutoring
Classroom Technology Webinar Building Better Blended Learning in K-12 Schools
The pandemic and the increasing use of technology in K-12 education it prompted has added renewed energy to the blended learning movement as most students are now learning in school buildings (and will likely continue

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Federal Top Federal Adviser on Puerto Rico's Schools Declares: 'We Have to Build Trust'
Chris Soto heads an Education Department team providing technical assistance and support for the U.S. territory's public schools.
4 min read
Martin G. Brumbaugh School kindergarten teacher Nydsy Santiago teaches her students under a gazebo at a municipal athletic park in Santa Isabel, Puerto Rico, on Feb. 4, 2021.
Martin G. Brumbaugh School kindergarten teacher Nydsy Santiago teaches her students under a gazebo at a municipal athletic park in Santa Isabel, Puerto Rico, on Feb. 4, 2021.
Carlos Giusti/AP
Federal Schools Could Count Nonbinary Students Under Biden Proposal
The Civil Rights Data Collection for this school year could also revive questions about inexperienced teachers and preschool discipline.
6 min read
Image of a form with male and female checkboxes.
iStock/Getty
Federal 'Parents' Bill of Rights' Underscores Furor Over Curriculum and Transparency in Schools
U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley's bill highlights how education issues like critical race theory will likely stay in the national political spotlight.
7 min read
Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., speaks during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on the conclusion of military operations in Afghanistan and plans for future counterterrorism operations, Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2021, on Capitol Hill in Washington.
U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., says "it's time to give control back to parents, not woke bureaucrats."
Patrick Semansky/AP
Federal Opinion It’s Not Just the NSBA That’s Out of Touch. There’s a Bigger Problem
Those who influence educational policy or practice would do well to care about what parents and the public actually want.
4 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty