Walter Cronkite, Gloria Steinem, and Bill Bradley are speaking in May at the 2004 commencement exercises of the Claremont Colleges. Included with those notables is someone whose name may not be as easily recognized: Bernardine Dohrn, the commencement speaker at Pitzer College.
On the Pitzer College web page announcing the event, Dohrn is referred to as a "leading child advocate" and a "Clinical Associate Professor of Law" at Northwestern University School of Law. This description is incomplete and therefore deceptive; it leaves out any mention of Dohrn's past as a leading member of Weather Underground, a radical domestic-terrorist group of the 1960s and 1970s.
Members of Weather Underground were involved in the violence that gained national attention during the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago; they vandalized cars and businesses and conducted more than two-dozen terrorist bombings across the country, including the Capitol and the Pentagon. Dohrn eventually spent seven months in jail for refusing to testify before a grand jury investigating Weather Underground. Federal bombing and conspiracy charges were dropped on a technicality. Like her husband and partner in crime Bill Ayers, Dohrn is unapologetic about her past.
Dohrn's love of violence reached a level bordering on madness. Speaking to a Weather Underground "war council" in Michigan in 1969, Dohrn gave a three-fingered "fork salute" to mass murderer Charles Manson. Calling Manson's victims the "Tate Eight," Dohrn gloated over the fact that actress Sharon Tate, who was pregnant at the time, had been stabbed with a fork in her womb. "Dig it. First they killed those pigs, then they ate dinner in the same room with them, they even shoved a fork into a victim's stomach! Wild!"
From the "Days of Rage" to robbing Brinks' armored trucks, bombing institutional buildings, and saluting Charles Manson's band of murderers, these were not the courageous actions of heroes fighting for justice. These were the actions of spoiled children become monsters, killing for what they wanted.
Why would Pitzer College deceive its students and the general public about whom they have invited to address the graduating class of 2004? Does the college wish to sanction domestic terrorism? To show that the most heinous activities can be forgiven or forgotten? Whatever the motive, this is all part of a culture of dishonesty that has taken root at the Claremont Colleges and among the intellectual elite throughout the nation. Claremont professor Kerri Dunn's alleged defacing of her car in the name of fighting hate crime is a part of this same deceptive mentality. Honoring Dohrn in this way now points the way to absolving Kerri Dunn in the future.
Last week, friends, comrades, and family bid farewell to California Highway Patrol officer Thomas Steiner, who was murdered as part of a gang initiation rite. Southern California reacted with horror to this act of cold-blooded violence. In her younger years, Dohrn would have cheered this foul act. And in a few weeks Pitzer College honors her. That's where the culture of lying takes us.