College Park, MD (CNSNews.com) - Anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan recently signed on with a speakers' bureau, and her appearance on the lecture circuit drew mixed reaction Tuesday night, especially from her younger supporters at the University of Maryland.
Sheehan, whose son Casey was killed in the Iraq war in 2004, took part in a discussion organized by the Democracy Collaborative, a university-sponsored group that works to "strengthen democracy" by addressing "democratic dilemmas in theoretical and practical ways," according to its website.
Sheehan left before the floor was opened to students for a question-and-answer session. Event moderator Gar Alperovitz, a professor at the university and the founder of the Democracy Collaborative, told students that Sheehan was not well. "She's in the back and very, very ill and I think also upset so she's not going to be coming back." He did not elaborate.
Before the event, Sheehan met with reporters to discuss her plans for the future. She said she didn't think her contract with Speaking Matters LLC will distract from her message.
"This is a society where people make money doing what they do and I have to pay my bills, too," she told Cybercast News Service.
"I love doing this and I do it for free," Sheehan continued. She said she has been spending her own money to travel around the country in recent weeks to rally opposition to the war in Iraq.
Sheehan previously told Cybercast News Service that she was not taking money from organizations like MoveOn.org or private financiers like George Soros but that her recent 51-city bus tour was funded by "grassroots fundraising."
She said her contract with Speaking Matters, which has not yet disclosed how much a Sheehan appearance will cost, will help her "finally make some money ...'cause Casey's insurance money's going to run out pretty soon."See Video
One student who supports Sheehan's activism said she thinks "it's admirable that she's not making any money, it shows that her incentives are true."
The student, who identified herself only as Andrea, said "what she's doing to bring attention to this cause, the fact that she's actually doing it, overrides any of my very drastic disagreements with it [Sheehan getting paid]."
Andrea's friend, Megan Hanford, said it makes sense that Sheehan would start charging for appearances. "She can't work while she's traveling the country," Hanford said, "and she's lost any income that her son might have brought her."
Hanford added that "she's not going to get rich off of these speaking engagements; it's not going to make her a millionaire, you know, so it doesn't change my view of her at all."
Another student, Justin Ahn, said he doesn't necessarily support Sheehan, but that seeing her in person made him more sympathetic to her cause.
He said he has mixed feelings about Sheehan making money off her message. "It does kind of change my perception, but then again it does make sense as well," he said. "I guess everyone's got to make a living somehow."
Bush supporter Jeff Roman was more hostile to Sheehan's media attention and public speaking contract. "If you're going to lose your son," Roman said sarcastically, "why not get 15 minutes of fame out of it."
Roman was one of dozens of Bush supporters at the event, which produced heated exchanges between College Republicans and anti-war activists outside the venue but remained civil during the speeches.
University of Maryland English professor Marilee Lindemann said she fully supports Sheehan making money from her speaking engagements. "She's given extraordinarily of herself, of her time," she said, "and I will point out that she sacrificed her child in service to this country."
Lindemann added that she'd "be happy personally to pay her for what she's doing and it doesn't compromise in any way the cause."
Sheehan said she will speak mainly on college campuses because students are "going to have to pay for the billions of dollars that we've dumped into this war. [Students are] going to have to pay for the enemies that we've made into generations and generations."
She recalled the large student demonstrations against the Vietnam War years ago, and she said she's encouraged that today's college students are so involved in protesting the war, even though there is no draft.
Sheehan said her next goal is to establish a "Camp Casey D.C." near the White House, which she envisions as a permanent vigil until the troops come home.
Sheehan's "Camp Casey" vigil outside President Bush's Crawford, Tex., ranch during the summer pushed her into the headlines and made her a hero to various liberal groups.
Sheehan is demanding a second meeting with President Bush to discuss the war she opposes so strenuously.
She first met with Bush two months after her son was killed. Since starting the vigil, however, Sheehan has said she's glad Bush didn't meet with her this summer, because it galvanized the anti-war movement.
"Camp Casey has given me back my joy for life, and a renewed sense of hope for my future and my country's future," Sheehan blogged in August.
President Bush has expressed sympathy for Sheehan, but he insists that withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq prematurely would betray the Iraqi people and cause others to question America's commitment to spreading freedom and winning the war on terror.
President Bush said this summer that the United States will honor its war dead by completing the mission for which they gave their lives.
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