Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders gave a speech to a packed arena. In the speech, he discussed the dangers of wealth disparity and said that the US economy is “rigged”.
From an article in Politico:
Sanders took a detour from his usual campaign trail, unapologetically bringing his impassioned brand of liberalism to Liberty University — the Christian school founded by the Rev. Jerry Falwell and the site of Sen. Ted Cruz’s presidential announcement — with the stated goal of finding common ground.
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It was an unlikely venue for Sanders, an independent senator from Vermont who has unexpectedly surged in the polls with his fiery talk on not just populist topics but also on social stances that are deeply at odds with those of evangelical voters.
And he didn’t hold back on Monday morning.
“Let me be very frank. I understand that issues such as abortion and gay marriage are very important to you and that we disagree on those issues. I get that,” Sanders said at the beginning of his speech. “But I came here today because I believe from the bottom of my heart that it is vitally important for those of us who hold different views to be able to engage in a civil discourse.”
Sanders made a plea to set aside those differences, repeatedly citing passages from the Bible like Matthew 7:12 and Amos 5:24, and argued that people on opposite sides of the political spectrum need to come together to fight the “massive injustice” of income inequality in the United States.
“You have got to think about the morality of that, the justice of that, and whether or not that is what we want to see in our country,” Sanders said. “In my view, there is no justice when, in recent years, we have seen a proliferation of millionaires and billionaires while at the same time the United States of America has the highest rate of childhood poverty of any major country on earth.”
The scene was respectful at least and enthusiastic at best throughout the event. There were no boos from the audience but there were notable silences or meager cheers during lines that have typically whipped up the crowds during Sanders’ megarallies. The biggest applause came when David Nasser, Liberty’s senior vice president for spiritual development, asked an audience-based question about how Sanders reconciles his support for the underprivileged, while those in the womb are arguably in most need of protection.
But Sanders got plenty of cheers of support for his main message — we must do more to help the financially disadvantaged. Most of his speech was shaped around morality, which he tried to use as a bridge to agree with students here. Sanders, at one point, began ticking off statistics about how “millions of people are working more hours for abysmally low wages of $7.25, of $8 an hour, $9 an hour” even as “58 percent of all new income generated is going to the top 1 percent.”
He also said that 20 percent of all children — and 40 percent of African-American children — now live in poverty. “How can we, I want you to go into your hearts, how can we talk about morality, about justice, when we turn our backs on the children of our country?”
The talk about racial inequality was a notable part of his remarks, especially after Sanders became a target of the Black Lives Matter movement over the summer, as activists sought more attention for the issue of institutional racism. Sanders, however, did appear to raise some eyebrows during the Q&A when asked what he would do to bring healing and resolution to the problem of racism in the U.S.
He responded that the nation in many ways was created on “racist principles” and then spoke about the progress that has followed the election of President Barack Obama.
“And I will also say that as a nation, the truth is that a nation which in many ways was created — I’m sorry to have to say this — from way back on racist principles,” Sanders said. “We have come as a long way as a nation. Now I know that, my guess is that probably not everybody here is an admirer of Barack Obama. But the point is that in 2008 this country took a huge step forward in voting for a candidate based on his ideas and not the color of his skin.”
But Sanders made sure to emphasize that he came to the school not for the applause, but to have a difficult talk.
“It is easy to go out and talk to people who agree with you,” Sanders said, noting that he was in Greensboro, North Carolina, a day earlier, before an audience of thousands of loud supporters. “That’s not hard to do. That’s what politicians by and large do — we go out and talk to people who agree with us. But it is harder but not less important for us to try and communicate with those who do not agree with us on every issue.”
The auditorium for Sanders’ speech was packed, mostly with college students, including a few wearing Bernie gear. Josh Doyle, a freshman at Liberty University who wore a Sanders 2016 shirt, said he got a few stares around campus.
“Just for wearing the shirt you get angry looks and that kind of thing. But then again a lot of people have been very, very nice about it and really opening —you know, welcoming,” Doyle said.
Sanders also got a warm reception from a couple dozen supporters who were not students and simply wanted to see the speech. Selena Vickers, 49, came up from West Virginia with her family, including her daughter who she let take a day off from school.
“I really wanted to see Bernie and this is the closest that he’s been so far,” Vickers said. “I’ve also seen through YouTube his stump speeches, which I like, but he’s going to be speaking to a completely different crowd, a very conservative college crowd. And I thought that his message would be a little bit different, and I was interested to hear how he was going to frame his message to these kids.”
But by and large, the arena was packed with Liberty University students who attend weekly convocations and have a very different political outlook than Sanders. Nathaniel O’Dell, a senior at the school, came wearing a shirt saying “politically incorrect since 1971.” He described himself as a Donald Trump supporter who also likes Sen. Ted Cruz.
“His immigration ideas are a little crazy in some ways, but his ideas about throwing everyone back across the border is a little drastic since everyone has a right to be in America as long as they get their citizenship,” O’Dell said of Trump.
As for Sanders, is there anything he agrees with the Vermont senator on? “Not at present, I don’t know much of his ideas,” O’Dell said.
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