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Bill Ayers: To Speak, or Not to Speak

St. Mary's College.jpg

(Moraga, California)

I am a Doctoral student at St. Mary’s College of California. I love my school! I am also a great proponent of free speech. Given how I make my living, I like to see a vigorous and open debate of all issues.

I know the decision to have former Weather Underground leader Bill Ayers speak Wednesday night at St. Mary's was very controversial. By his own admission, Ayers was involved in dangerous acts of domestic terror as a protest to the Vietnam War. More recently, his associations with candidate Barack Obama stirred controversy during the Presidential campaign.

As an academic institution, St. Mary’s was within its rights to invite Ayers, who now makes his living as an educator. And the protesters were within their rights to object. The First Amendment grants ALL the right to free speech and free assembly. Sometimes, in the heat of passion, we forget that; but these are some of the basic tenets that have helped our democracy to survive all these years.

To me, the internet has extended the reach of those rights in a mostly positive way. To that end, I have listed a few links below. One is to the St. Mary’s College website; another is to the "Contra Costa Times"; and the final is a link to one of the groups which protested the event. May society benefit from a free and open discussion of all these issues.

As always, if you have comments--for or against Ayers's appearance or its protesters--post them in the comments section of this blog!




My new book, “Age of Obama: A Reporter’s Journey with Clinton, McCain & Obama in the Making of the President 2008” is now available. Click the book button on the right of the screen to be connected to www.Amazon.com.

Commentator George Will autographed a copy of my book, Thursday night at Contra Costa USA in Concord, California. What a great event!

Contra Costa USA Crowd Laughs to Will Durst


(Concord, California)

There is nothing like political humor! Every new President, Congress, Governor or situation presents a new opportunity to laugh at our great (yet flawed) system of democracy!

Today that was true at Contra Costa USA, the annual meeting of business, civic and government leaders in Concord, California. The morning headliner was political comedian and satirist Will Durst.

President Obama may have been in office only nine days, but the jokes are coming already. Durst noted that the largely favorable press coverage for Obama has already turned negative in some circles: “The honeymoon of Barack Obama might have been shorter than that of Britney Spears in Vegas,” said Durst of the singer’s famous, but ill-fated, forty-eight-hour marriage a few years ago.

Durst also made fun of Obama’s oversized ears, noting they could have served a purpose on a bitterly cold Inauguration Day. “Why not accuse him of not using his ears as wind baffles to protect the crowd from the chill?” Durst said to a laughing crowd.

Durst also noted--tongue in cheek--that the United States overcame a certain degree of its history of discrimination by electing Obama. “I can’t believe America would set aside its prejudices and elect a Harvard Law graduate.”

Still, Durst lamented that George W. Bush is gone, after providing eight fruitful years of comedy. “I’m in a state of mourning for losing George Bush. For comedy, his equal is unknown. It’s like Reagan and Quayle had a kid.”

“I was just one cog in his 'one comedian left behind' act,” said Durst.

Durst read a list of real quotes from many politicians that came out funnier than they probably intended:

“I think we can all agree; the past is over.” --George W. Bush

“More and more of our imports are coming from overseas.” --George W. Bush

“I’ve had the honor of campaigning in all 57 states,” said Barack Obama. “My! He does have an ambitious agenda,” added Will Durst, wryly.

Hillary Clinton did not escape his humor either. Durst noted a speech she gave in Pennsylvania last year: “In this race, I’m Rocky Balboa,” Clinton said. Then Durst noted: “You remember: In the movie Rocky loses--to a black guy. So it worked out,” Durst said, as the crowd roared with laughter.

Impeached Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich was skewered, too: “He’s given a bad name to people with bad names,” said Durst. He also noted that Blagojevich was impeached on a vote of 114 to 1. “Who’s the one? His barber?” pondered Durst, referring to Blago’s bushy haircut. “He looks like the fifth Beatle!”

Alaska Governor Sarah Palin did not escape the Durst humor today, as he noted that Palin is an avid hunter. “She looks like she can handle a gun better than Dick Cheney. If you get shot in the face by Sarah Palin, it’s no accident,” Durst said.

Will Durst is a fellow Milwaukeean whom I have known for thirty years. In my opinion, he’s the funniest political comedian in the business. See more at his website at www.WillDurst.com.

My book is out, “Age of Obama: A Reporter’s Journey with Clinton, McCain and Obama in the Making of the President 2008.” You can buy it at www.MarkCurtisMedia.com or www.Amazon.com.

I will introduce columnist George Will tonight at Contra Costa USA. More later!

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