Each person needs to become an activist for something he is passionate about according to a prominent social activist who spoke Thursday at the University of Oregon.
Bill Ayers, an activist in the world of social justice, spoke to a crowd of over 350 people on the need for educational reform in America Thursday at 7 p.m. Ayers gave his lecture in Lillis 182 but so many people attended the event, he was projected to overflow seating in another lecture hall as well.
Ayers has been demonstrating for various causes since age 16. Ayers is the co-founder of the Weather Underground, a radical group that opposed the Vietnam War, and more recently known for his connection to Obama during the 2008 Presidential campaign. Many media outlets portrayed him as Obama’s “Weatherman Connection.”
Although he has been pronounced as a highly controversial figure , Thursday’s speech had a pretty simple message: improve America’s education system by finding something to advocate for.
Ayers believes the way the country’s elite educate their children is the standard we should have for all education systems. He used the school President Obama’s daughters attend as an example of a successful system and says people need to fight for that standard of education. “We have a huge fight ahead of us and that fight involves changing the terms of education,” Ayers said.
Ayers feels that the current attitude about education being preparation for life isn’t helpful, instead, it should be living life. He encourages teachers to be willing to ask why and engage student’s minds in ways other than cramming information in. “Education is one of those things, like love, that if you give it all away you won’t diminish yourself a bit,” Ayers said
Sarah Hamill, a senior Education Foundations and Spainish double major left Ayer’s speech feeling inspired and excited for her responsibilities as a teacher. “Hearing Bill Ayers was really empowering especially since I’m an education major. Hopefully I can take some of his advice as I prepare to be a teacher in the future,” Hamill said.
Ayer’s speech wasn’t just a laundry list of things that needed to be fixed in the education system, instead, he encouraged people to find something to work towards changing. He acknowledged that some things won’t change overnight but fighting for a cause is important. When he fights for a cause he doesn’t ever know if he’s going to win but he knows he has to try to make a difference.
Laurie Gutmann Kahn, a graduate student, organized the event with Ayers. “We mostly brought him here because we wanted to engage the college of education and the greater community about igniting the flame. He’s also controversial, and that’s the reason we brought him because of that controversy, and that’s what spurred our excitement,” said Gutmann Kahn.
Despite Ayers controversial reputation, his message didn’t force the audience to pick a side. Ayers general message was for each person to work towards changing something he cared about.