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Friday April 18, 2014
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From Teacher to Terrorist

 

continued

Four years earlier, Diana brought sudden sunshine into the American Friends Service Committee office where I worked, in the basement of Ralph Kerman's home on Woodlawn. Her tawny hair and light gold skin seemed illuminated by her huge smile. She came to visit our intern, Art Koeninger, who had worked in Guatemala while she was volunteering there in Chichicastenango. Both had been deeply moved by their experiences, and they had formed an immediate bond. Her first words to me were a gentle correction of how to pronounce her name. She leaned forward, her hair swinging over her shoulder, and said carefully and quietly, "OW-ten. OW-ten." Her smile and genuine friendliness took the sting out of her words, and I was caught in her aura.

Like all of my friends in the 1960s, she was outraged by the world situation--poverty, injustice, the Vietnam War. But she was also full of enthusiasm for her causes: her boyfriend, Bill Ayers; the Children's Community, the alternative primary school they ran; and the antiwar movement. Intelligent, articulate and committed, she kept inviting me to come see the school, to become part of her work. So I left AFSC at the end of 1967 to join the staff in the school, which met in the basement of Friends Meeting House.

The Children's Community was modeled on Summerhill, the famous alternative school in England. The six of us on staff worked hard to create an open atmosphere. Bill lectured us about poverty, capitalism, racial integration, social class, and child development. But I watched Diana to learn teaching. She brought the love and gentleness that kept the school and staff together, despite our not knowing much at all about what we were doing.

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