In the 1990s, President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama joined Sixties radical Bill Ayers on a panel fighting back against the “super-predator” policy pushed by then-First Lady Hillary Clinton.
Clinton is under fire in her Democratic primary race for her comments in a 1996 campaign speech, in which she pushed her husband’s supposed tough-on-crime policies, which boosted black incarceration and pushed more juvenile offenders into adult criminal status. Clinton spoke of “super-predators” who have no human empathy who must be stopped at all costs.
A protester confronted Clinton about her 1996 comments at a fundraiser earlier this year. But records reveal that Clinton’s critics on the issue at the time included the current president and First Lady, who were then national unknowns.
A November 1997 University of Chicago press release touted a panel entitled “Should a child ever be called a ‘super predator’? featuring Bill Ayers, a member of the Sixties terrorist group the Weathermen, which carried out some bombings during the Vietnam War.
“We should call a child a child. A 13-year-old who picks up a gun isn’t suddenly an adult. We have to ask other questions: How did he get the gun? Where did it come from?” Ayers said in the press release.
Ayers was joined by his friend Barack, whose wife Michelle appears to have set up the panel for the university. According to the press release:
Ayers will be joined by Illinois State Sen. Barack Obama, Senior Lecturer in the University of Chicago Law School, who is working to block proposed legislation that would throw more juvenile offenders into the adult system; Randolph Stone, Director of the Mandel Legal Aid Clinic at the University of Chicago; Alex Correa, a reformed juvenile offender who spent 7 years in Cook County Temporary Detention Center; Frank Tobin, a former priest and teacher in the Detention Center who helped Correa; and Willy Baldwin, who grew up in public housing and is currently a teacher in the Detention Center.
The juvenile justice system was founded by Chicago reformer Jane Addams, who advocated the establishment of a separate court system for children which would act like a “kind and just parent” for children in crisis.
One hundred years later, the system is “overcrowded, under-funded, over-centralized and racist,” Ayers said.
Michelle Obama, Associate Dean of Student Services and Director of the University of Chicago Community Service Center, hopes bringing issues like this to campus will open a dialogue between members of the University community and the broader community.
“We know that issues like juvenile justice impact each of us who live in the city of Chicago. This panel gives community members and students a chance to hear about the juvenile justice system not only on a theoretical level, but from the people who have experienced it.”