Editor’s Note: This week, the DVD of the movie “2016″ will be
released. A key premise of the film is that Barack Obama has his own set of five
“founding fathers” — five key people who shaped his worldview. This week,
TheBlaze will examine one of those individuals each day. Yesterday we examined
Rev. Jeremiah Wright. Today, the focus will be on Bill Ayers, the man credited
with launching Obama’s political career from his Chicago apartment.
“Guilty as sin, free as a bird.” That is a term
all-too apropos for unrepentant domestic terrorist Bill Ayers, a man who set off
explosives at the U.S. Capitol, the Pentagon, a police station, two Army
recruiting stations and a New York judge’s home while his entire family slept
inside. He is the founder and leader of the now-defunct radical group, The
Weather Underground, of which three members perished while building additional
bombs that were, ironically, intended to cause harm to others. He is also the
man who happened to help launch an ambitious community organizer’s political
career into the stratosphere right from his apartment on Chicago’s South
As TheBlaze continues its series on President Obama’s “Founding Fathers,” we
will explore the life and times of America’s most notorious anti-war radical and
his association with the man who would go on to become the leader of the free
It perhaps comes as no surprise that the domestic terrorist-turned respected
University of Illinois-Chicago professor took a shine to Obama back in 1995 when
the aspiring politico was being considered to fill Democrat Alice J. Palmer’s
state senate seat. While still a relative unknown at the time, as community
organizer, Obama was well positioned to stake his place in the world of leftwing
Chicago politics – a place Ayers himself deftly traversed and whose various
radical initiatives would stand to benefit from being a part of.
(Related: ‘Founding Father’ Rev. Wright and How He Shaped Obama’s World
Of course, Ayers has denied “knowing” Obama personally prior to hosting a
campaign gathering for the state senate hopeful in his own living room back in
1995. Still, most agree it seems unlikely that any person, let alone a highly
regarded professor and activist, would “vouch” for a political candidate with
whom he had no prior knowledge, personal tie, or vested interest in.
And history might back up this theory.
Photo source: Washington Post
From 1994-2002, Obama and Ayers sat together on the same board of directors
for the Chicago Annenberg Challenge (CAC), an education-focused organization Ayers himself had
helped found, and the Woods Fund, a foundation tasked with fighting poverty. In
fact, it has been speculated that Ayers was actually keen on recruiting Obama to
serve on the board of Annenberg for his influence and connections within the
South Side’s black community.
So just how closely did the two work together while battling for the soul of
Chicago’s education system?
The Annenberg Challenge
Launched in 1995 as a five-year education-reform initiative to improve public
schools in Chicago and across the U.S., billionaire-publishing mogul and
ambassador Walter Annenberg underwrote the organization bearing his namesake
with $500 million of his own capital. Over 1,600 foundations, businesses, higher
learning institutions, and private citizens contributed an additional $600
million in matching funds.
Nonetheless, the organization itself was in fact founded by Bill Ayers and in
the words of author and columnist Stanley Kurtz, functioned as CAC’s “guiding spirit.”
While in its nascent stage, Ayers along with five members of a working group
assembled the foundation’s board of directors, inevitably electing a
young Barack Obama chairman of the board, a position the community
organizer would hold for four years. Now to understand the gravitas of
Obama’s appointment, we must understand just how
important education is to Bill Ayers.
Photo source: CCSR UChicago
Annenberg: the culmination of Ayers’ life work
Ironically, despite his checkered past as a violent radical who incited youth
across the country to “kill the rich,” even their “parents,” Bill Ayers would go
on to become a highly regarded professor of education. Of course, given the
leftist bent of America’s, and particularly, Chicago’s intelligentsia, it is
perhaps no surprise the former Weatherman found himself heartily welcomed within
the halls of academia.
Ayers’ biography describes him as a Distinguished Professor of
Education and Senior University Scholar at UIC (retired), founder of the Small
Schools Workshop (an organization whose name bears remembering) and the Center
for Youth and Society. In addition, Ayers taught courses in interpretive and
qualitative research, urban school change, and “teaching and the modern
The left-wing activist is a graduate of the University of Michigan, the Bank
Street College of Education, Bennington College, and serves as vice-president of
the curriculum studies division of the American Educational Research
Association. What’s more, Ayers has authored and edited well over a dozen books
on education not including articles he has penned for the Harvard Educational
Review and the Cambridge Journal of Education, to name a few.
In other words, aside from radical anti-Vietnam War activism, Ayers is
perhaps best known as an educator (albeit a controversial one) who all accounts
indicate takes his profession quite seriously. Thus, it would require a
suspension of disbelief to imagine that Ayers would be bestowed the good fortune
of mass-funding for his brainchild – indeed be poised to finally realize his
life’s work on a grand scale — and not take great care in selecting the
person who would chair his foundation’s board.
It also strains imagination to think that the founder and principle of an
education fund of this magnitude had little to no dealings with that
foundation’s chairman of the board.
Another oddity is that even though heading the Annenberg Challenge’s board of
directors indeed constitutes executive experience — experience Obama’s critics
claimed he lacked and relentlessly assailed him on during the 2008 presidential
campaign — the president has, to date, been reticent about his tenure at the
Annenberg Challenge. Typically, one attempting to prove possessing executive
experience would be eager, boastful even, of holding such a formidable position
at a respected foundation.
(Photo source: The New Yorker)
To best “advance the organization’s agenda,” Obama reportedly focused on
CAC’s fiscal matters while Ayers honed in on education policy. What’s more, the
two collaborated closely while writing Annenberg’s bylaws.
Proof of this was uncovered by Kurtz, who perused CAC’s archives housed in
the Richard J. Daley Library at the University of Illinois-Chicago. The
foundation’s annual reports, a selection of board minutes and even documentation
on the organizations and initiatives both funded and rejected by CAC have all
been publicly available. According to Kurtz, the Daley archives reveal that
Obama and Ayers indeed worked as a team. But what did this team actually set out
The answer may be far from shocking when one considers the players
CAC and the radicalization of schools
Under the former Weatherman’s stewardship, Annenberg turned out to be
less-focused on improving student-performance across Chicago’s public schools
and instead functioned as a vessel through which Ayers could effect the radical change outlined in his book, “Teaching Toward
Freedom,” which posited that educators should “teach against the oppression”
pervading American society and encourage “revolution and social
Thus, Ayers and Obama’s Annenberg Challenge set out not to improve
mathematics, test-taking and reading skills among students, but rather to
radicalize Chicago schools. Those schools, ostensibly, had to sign on to the
ideals and mission of a “small ‘c’ Communist” (as Ayers has openly dubbed
himself) in order to receive funding. Suspiciously, however, the schools
themselves were not the ones to receive the actual capital, rather they were
instructed to join forces with “external partners,” who received the CAC
If it sounds confusing, that is likely because Ayers set out to obfuscate
what CAC funds were being used for and by who. When you read
on, you’ll understand why.
To ensure his goals were realized, Ayers, along with his chairman of the
board, Barack Obama, ensured that more than $100 million flowed into the coffers
of community organizers and activist groups, all of which upheld the ideals
championed in “Teaching Toward Freedom.”
Even programs tasked with promoting political “leadership” among parents were
recipients of CAC funding. ”In practice, it meant funding Mr. Obama’s alma
mater, the Developing Communities Project, to recruit parents to its overall
political agenda,” Kurtz wrote in the Wall Street Journal.
According to Kurtz’s research, proposals from groups focused on achieving
milestones in math and science were rejected outright while CAC happily
allocated funds to “various far-left community organizers,” including the
Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN). Through the
organizations ”City Kids, City Teachers” and “Teaching the Personal and the
Political,” Ayers unabashedly admitted that teachers should become community
Meanwhile, “external partners” like the South Shore African Village
Collaborative and the Dual Language Exchange enjoyed the benefits of CAC funds
as the groups focused on issues of Afrocentricity and bilingualism, according to
What’s more, Discover the Networks noted that $600,000 of CAC’s funds were allocated to the aforementioned Small Schools Workshop,
an organization founded by Ayers and run by Mike Klonsky, a self-proclaimed Marxist-Leninist and Mao
Zedong-idolater. Small School’s mission was allegedly to motivate schools to
commit themselves to upholding political themes and “confront issues of
inequity, war, and violence.”
Perhaps because Ayers and his board were more focused on radicalizing
schools, parents and educators in progressivism and social justice than on
performing the task with which they were charged: actually improving traditional
education, CAC failed in its mission utterly. Kurtz noted that in-house
evaluators reviewed the effects of CAC grants in relation to test scores
of Chicago public-school students and found no educational improvement of any
kind. This was documented in CAC’s own final report.
Obama stepped down as chairman in 1999, but remained on CAC’s board until the
foundation became defunct in 2001. Despite CAC’s ultimate failure, the
organization’s remaining assets were transferred to the Chicago Public Education
Fund, where, not coincidentally, Obama served as a member of the “Leadership
Council” from 2001 through 2004, along with Ayers’ father and brother.
Other boards and dealings
Reports indicate that combined, the Weather Underground leader and Obama
attended dozens of quarterly and standard board meetings, as well as
panel discussions, retreats, and at least one news conference together via the
Chicago Annenberg Challenge and the Woods Fund until roughly 2002. One panel
discussion was even organized by Michelle Obama.
Nonetheless, Obama’s time spent on progressive boards rubbing elbows with
Chicago’s political and academic elite helped transform him from relative
“nobody” to a formidable operator with the Windy City’s rough-and-tumble
While at the Woods Fund and Joyce Foundation, the soon-to-be state senator
channeled what the New York Times reported was “tens of millions of dollars in grants” to
champion liberal causes including the environment, campaign finance reform and
gun control. Various antipoverty groups with ties to Chicago’s powerful labor
unions and ACORN were the recipients of some of these grants. Not
coincidentally, Obama also needed the organizations’ endorsements to win his
State Senate race.
With Ayers a fixture of the very progressive milieu Obama sought to
penetrate, it is entirely plausible that the aspiring politician would have
forged collegial ties with the former Weatherman.
Most accounts, particularly from the Obama camp, suggest that the two men had
no additional contact after 2002 save for a brief encounter while the two were
bike-riding in Hyde Park in 2007. However, Dr. Tom Perrin, Assistant Professor
of English at Huntingdon College in Montgomery, Alabama, who was a graduate
student at the University of Chicago and lived next door to Ayers and Dohrn wrote on his blog at 8:44 a.m. on July 6, 2005:
Guess what? I spent the 4th of July evening with star Democrat Barack Obama!
Actually, that’s a lie. Obama was at a barbecue at the house next door (given by
a law professor who is a former member of the Weather Underground) and we saw
him over the fence at our barbecue. Well, the others did. It had started raining
and he had gone inside be the time I got there. Nevertheless.
So did Obama and Ayers remain friendly until at least 2005, three years after
they last served together on the board of directors of the Woods Fund? Given the
small world of South Side Chicago politics, it is indeed possible.
Another oddity surrounding the connection between Bill Ayers and President
Obama can be found in black and white in the president’s memoir, “Dreams From My
Father.” The topic of whether Ayers in fact authored “Dreams” was first broached
before the 2008 presidential election. Jack
Cashill, author of the book, “Deconstructing Obama,” has consistently maintained that Ayers “is the principal craftsman
behind Dreams” and that the “evidence is overwhelming.” In fact, the Weatherman
himself claimed ownership of the book on two separate occasions, once captured
While speaking at Montclair State University in March, 2011, Ayers admitted
to writing “Dreams” and declared that if anyone could “prove it” he would “split
Whether his admission was said in jest remains unclear, but experts who have
compared “Dreams” to Obama’s subsequent book, “The Audacity of Hope,” seem to
agree that the writing styles differ greatly with each work, the latter being of
lesser quality. Given Ayers proficiency with the English language, and as an
educator who has authored, co-authored and edited dozens of books and scholarly
articles, it does seem possible that the retired professor’s expertise was
invoked by Obama when putting together the pages of his memoir.
What’s more, with Ayers’ nature as an anti-war radical and political
progressive, he would have been innately in-tune with the anti-colonial
sentiment harbored by Obama’s father, Barak Sr., which served as the prevailing
theme throughout the entire book.
It should also be noted that On December 21, 1997, Obama penned a brief
review of Ayers’ book “A Kind and Just Parent: The Children of Juvenile Court,” Below
is a photo of the review as it appeared in the Chicago Tribune:
(Photo source: Zombie Blog)
A shared crusade against capitalism?
Of course a common crusade shared by both Ayers and President Obama is their
aversion to capitalism and a push to reform what they view as a deeply flawed
system that rewards the wealthy and exploits the working and middle class.
Recall that Occupy Wall Street began as a spin-off of a Weather Underground
movement dubbed “Days of Rage,” which took the streets of Chicago by storm in
1969 when Ayers and his fellow Weathermen went on a violent rampage armed with
bats, billy clubs and various make-shift weapons. While sold as an anti-Vietnam
War protest, Ayers and his crew called on the city’s youth to “kill the rich,”
even their parents, in an attempt to snuff out the evil force of capitalism.
(Photo source: TheBlaze)
Despite Ayers’ initial claim that his Day of Rage would be “non-violent,”
during an interview with Chicago Mag, Ayers, with no regrets, summed up his riot’s
intended purpose, stating, “kill all the rich people. Break up their cars and
apartments. Bring the revolution home, kill your parents—that’s where it’s
really at.” Ayers went on to trivialize his “rage” saying that “the rhetoric was
excessive because the times were excessive.”
Today, Ayers has been an equal, if less hostile critic of the free market,
praising Occupy Wall Street and declaring that he still wakes up each and every
morning with a renewed push to end capitalism.
“I get up every morning and think, today I’m going to make a difference,”
Ayers said in an online video clip. “Today I’m going to end capitalism. Today I’m
going to make a revolution. I go to bed every night disappointed but I’m back to
work tomorrow, and that’s the only way you can do it.”
While President Obama has never condoned violent protest, he has commiserated
with the Occupy movement and been vocal in his support of the group’s worldview and ultimate goal. In
turn, while the depth of the connection between Ayers and Obama is still
When presidential biographers set out to understand what makes their subjects
tick, the first topic delved into will be the friends, family, mentors and
colleagues with whom a president shared various stages of his life. Thus, when
one views the Commander in Chief’s style of governing through the lens of his
role models, a clearer pictures comes into focus. Such appears to be the case
with President Obama and the man who hosted a parlor meeting for the young
community organizer in his Chicago home nearly 20 years ago.
If Obama and Ayers were merely acquaintances on the peripheral of their South
Side neighborhood, it doesn’t add-up that Ayers would have tapped the fledgling
state senator to chair the board of one of the most formidable, well-funded
educational foundations in the country. What’s more, if the speculation is true,
and Ayers did in fact author “Dreams From My Father,” than the former Weatherman
indeed would have had to become intimately close with Obama in order to write as
if he in fact were Obama.
Clearly, their shared progressive ideals would have made them, at least in
part, kindred spirits on certain issues. What’s more, even if Obama roundly
condemns Ayers’ past terrorist-dealings that does not necessarily negate the
fact that Ayers was an influence and perhaps even mentor. Consider that Obama’s
own father was a less-than desirable character: a polygamist, alcoholic and
abusive figure who abandoned Obama at a tender age. Nonetheless, the president
dedicated an entire book to his father’s dreams and carrying out his legacy.
Whether a sitting president achieves great success or great failure during
his time in office, one thing is almost always certain: his world view and
policy stances, at least in part, were shaped by the influence of his advisers
and role models, be they good, bad or otherwise.
Tags: Guilty, as, Sin, Everything, You, Need, to, Know, About, Obama, Founding, Father, Bill Ayers, Radical, Influence
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