Barack Obama’s Review of William Ayers’ Book

zombietime, October 18, 2008

On December 21, 1997, Barack Obama wrote a short review of William Ayers’ book A Kind and Just Parent: The Children of Juvenile Court, which had recently been published by Beacon Press. Here’s a photo of how the review appeared in the Chicago Tribune:

(Bloggers, journalists and media members are all free to re-post this image with no restrictions. If you would like a hi-resolution version, right-click or control-click here.)

Obama’s review of Ayers’ book says, “A searing and timely account of the juvenile court system, and the courageous individuals who rescue hope from despair.”

I had seen mentions of the existence of this review in a very few media outlets, including CNN, National Review, American Spectator, and a handful of others. But because the review was published before the Chicago Tribune began digitizing and archiving its articles online, there was no direct Web link to the review itself—only citations of it. So, out of curiosity, I took it upon myself to visit a library in San Francisco, and using the library’s Lexis-Nexis access and its archive of microfilm versions of major newspapers, including the Chicago Tribune, I finally tracked down a copy of the actual review itself.

Turns out the review was very short—what I had thought (from reading the citations in the online articles) were just short quotes from it was in fact the entirety of the review. But it was accompanied by a photo of Obama, standing by his statement. The review was part of a column called “Mark My Word,” in which Chicago notables praise their favorite current books.

Just a few weeks before this review was published in the Chicago Tribune, Obama and Ayers appeared together on a panel about juvenile justice organized by Michelle Obama on November 20, 1997:

Children who kill are called “super predators,” “people with no conscience,” “feral pre-social beings”—and “adults.”{snip}

This story is likely to continue growing, and I thought that the image above would provide a good “visual” for the Obama-Ayers connection.

[UPDATE: On page 82 of the book itself, Ayers mentions Obama. So there’s no question they knew each other.]

review

[Editor’s Note: See the complete article for more photos that support the above photo’s authenticity here.]


{snip}

[William] Ayers, who spent a year observing the Cook County Temporary Juvenile Detention Center in Chicago, is one of four panelists who will speak on juvenile justice at 6 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 20, in the C-Shop. {snip}

Ayers will be joined by Sen. Barack Obama, Senior Lecturer in the Law School, who is working to combat legislation that would put more juvenile offenders into the adult system. . . . {snip}

{snip}

{snip} [The] system is “overcrowded, under-funded, over-centralized and racist,” Ayers said.

Michelle Obama, Associate Dean of Student Services and Director of the University Community Service Center, hopes bringing issues like this to campus will open a dialogue between members of the University community and the broader community.

“Students and faculty explore these issues in the classroom, but it is an internal conversation,” Obama said. “We know that issues like juvenile justice impact the city of Chicago, this nation and—directly or indirectly—this campus. This panel gives students a chance to hear about the juvenile justice system not only on a theoretical level, but from the people who have experienced it.”

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