Normally I’m not one to applaud people using positions of trust to settle personal scores, but even if that’s what you call this, in this case I’m all cheers for the Kennedys:
When retiring University of Illinois at Chicago Professor Bill Ayers co-wrote a book in 1973, it was dedicated in part to Sirhan Sirhan, Robert F. Kennedy’s assassin.
That came back to haunt Ayers on Thursday when the U. of I. board, now chaired by Kennedy’s son, considered his request for emeritus status. It was denied in a unanimous vote.
Before the vote, an emotional Chris Kennedy spoke out against granting the status to Ayers.
“I intend to vote against conferring the honorific title of our university to a man whose body of work includes a book dedicated in part to the man who murdered my father,” he said.
“There can be no place in a democracy to celebrate political assassinations or to honor those who do so.”
Later, Kennedy told the Chicago Sun-Times he and the board have not seen any signs of remorse from Ayers in the nearly 40 years since the dedication.
“There’s no evidence in any of his interviews or conversations that he regrets any of those actions — that’s a better question for him,” he told the Sun-Times…
There was a lot of back-and-forth about Ayers back during the 2008 election, you will recall. The thing I like about this personal action by Chris Kennedy is that it serves a public purpose, and of course the public good was what RFK’s memory should be about.
The public good served is that we are made to face clearly what a blackguard Ayers was, and still is (since he’s never expressed regret about what he did back in the day).
So in that sense, this isn’t personal, it’s strictly business. By the way, the “Godfather” reference here is not strictly gratuitous. Mario Puzo wrote another book called The Fourth K, which was about a latter-day member of the Kennedy family who wages unrestricted war on terrorism after his daughter is murdered by terrorists. (The whole “business-vs.-personal” theme was a big one for Puzo. He was fascinated by the idea of powerful men using their power for very personal purposes.)
In this case, Chris Kennedy found a much more gentle way to settle a family account. And good for him. And good for the board, which redeemed this act beyond the realm of personal vengeance by acting unanimously, on principle. This is the way retribution should be conducted, by the full community.