Public Enemy: Confessions of a American Dissident
Hosted by Max Pringle
In this sequel to Fugitive Days, Ayers charts his life after the Weather Underground, when he becomes the GOP’s favorite “domestic terrorist” and “public enemy”.
Labeled a “domestic terrorist” by the McCain campaign in 2008 and used by the Radical Right to castigate Barack Obama for “pallin’ around with terrorists,” Bill Ayers is In fact a dedicated teacher, father, and social justice advocate with a sharp memory and even sharper wit. Public Enemy tells his story from the moment he and his wife, Bernardine Dohrn, emerged from years on the run and rebuilt their lives as public figures, often celebrated for their community work and much hated by the Radical Right. In the face of defamation by conservative media, including a multimillion-dollar campaign aimed solely at demonizing Ayers, and in spite of frequent death threats,
Bill and Bernardine stay true to their core beliefs in the power of protest, demonstration, and deep commitment. Ayers reveals how he has navigated the challenges and triumphs of this public life with commitment and good humor- from the red carpet at the Oscars to prison vigils and airports (where he is often detained and where he finally “confesses” that he actually did write Dreams from My Father.
“[A] witty and spirited follow-up to Fugitive Days. . . . Through humor and self-reflection, the book offers a complex portrait of Ayers. . . . Often times riotously funny, yet also plainspoken and serious, this is a memoir of impressive range.” --Publishers Weekly (*Starred review)
“This compelling sequel to Ayers’ Fugitive Days describes the author’s chaotic life after he and his wife, Bernardine Dohrn, became the topic and target of conversation during Barack Obama’s first run for the presidency. . . . Demonized and blacklisted, Ayers maintains not only his sanity but also his humor. . . . A wonderful homage to free speech.” --Booklist (*Starred review)
Along the way, at potluck dinners and prison vigils, around campus and in the classroom, Ayers introduces the people who have shaped and enriched his life, including family members and dear friends, colleagues and students, and a large and deeply connected community “of agitators, activists, dissidents and outcasts.”
After the primary debate in the spring of 2008, when George Stephanopoulos brought up Obama and Ayers’s “friendly” relationship, the fallout on Ayers’s life was immediate and intense. “There was no way to prepare for what was about to hit me,” he remembers. “The great speeding locomotive designed to derail Obama would run me and others down as just some unavoidable debris or collateral damage, the inevitable road kill.” He describes what it was like to suddenly become a media creation, “a one-dimensional cartoon character,” while living with his house under siege by the press, including Fox News airing pictures of his front door every night, his address prominently displayed. He recalls non-stop death threats, such that he was assigned regular protection by both Chicago and his university’s police. Strangers began approaching him at airports and train stations; at New York’s crowded Grand Central Station he was unnerved when a young man started pointing at him and screaming “It’s Bill Ayers, the terrorist! We need help!”
Bill Ayers is the author of the acclaimed and controversial memoir Fugitive Days and many books on education, including To Teach, Teaching Toward Freedom, and A Kind and Just Parent. He is the founder of the Small Schools Workshop and was, until his retirement, Distinguished Professor of Education and Senior University Scholar at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He lives in Hyde Park, Chicago.
MAX PRINGLE is a veteran KPFA Public Affairs Producer.
$12 advance tickets: brownpapertickets.com :: 800-838-3006 or Pegasus (3 locations), Marcus Books, Mrs. Dalloway’s Books, Moe’s, Walden Pond, DIESEL a Bookstore, and Modern Times ($15 door)