Vermont senator and U.S. Presidential Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders drew a crowd of over 20,000 at a rally in Boston on Saturday Oct. 3. In front of the crowds, Sanders set his campaign agenda, indicating what he feels are the major issues facing our country today such as vast income inequality, mass incarceration and systemic racism.
A group of about 17 Wellesley students met with the presidential candidate before the rally to discuss a variety of political issues relevant to young people and college students in particular. The students asked Sanders about his thoughts on the situation in Syria and what he would do to combat Islamophobia and destigmatize the perception certain people have about Muslims and the religion of Islam. In addition, Sanders also answered the question of what role young people play in politics.
“[Sanders really emphasized that it’s] important for young minds to be involved in politics and for us to be informed about political matters,” Michelle Lu ’18 said. “And he said something about starting a political revolution because our country has a bunch of problems we need to solve.”
Throughout the meeting with Sanders, Lu was struck by the presidential candidate’s unique attire.
“It was really interesting because he wasn’t the kind of person who looks very slimily presentable,” Lu said. “His shirt was untucked, his pants were too big for him; he just didn’t really care how he looked.”
After the meeting, the Wellesley students watched Sanders give a stump speech, which is a standard political campaign speech typically made on a campaign tour. Topics raised included climate change, women’s healthcare and access to education.
“He is a very intense [speaker], that’s the only way I can really describe him,” Lu said. “He wags his finger and [yells] ‘the billionaire class.’ He’s very indignant all the time. I think he gives off a good impression to people and people really like him because he has an ‘us vs. them’ way of talking. He always says, ‘I’m with you guys, I am on your side.’ ”
For Radhika Menon ’19, who also attended the rally, Sanders’ frank way of speaking is one of the things that first attracted her to the candidate.
“One thing I really like about him is his complete integrity,” Menon said. “He is one candidate who doesn’t have any super PACs, and I think he really means everything he says and he’s not going to flip flop on it. I think it takes a lot of guts [to go with] the whole socialism thing, especially in America and he doesn’t shy away from it. I was impressed that he [visited] Liberty University, a very conservative Christian university, to give a speech. How many candidates would go right across their comfort zone like that?”
Lu also feels that Sanders’ integrity and lack of pretense can be seen in the kinds of topics he chooses to bring up in his speeches.
“He just straight talks,” Lu said. “He doesn’t say anything about himself. He doesn’t say ‘my wife did this, and I grew up in this town.’ He just talks about the issues. He’s very statistics based. He’ll use a lot of numbers to back up whatever he’s saying which I find pretty refreshing in the sense that he knows what he is saying is true.”
Sanders’ speaking style and the content of his speech energized the crowd.
“There was a really great energy in the room, with lots of people packed together and chanting and cheering,” Emily Boyk ’18 said. “Everyone was really excited to be there, which created this really heightened and electric energy. As for Bernie himself, his speech was really passionate and the crowd really ate it up.”
Ultimately, the Wellesley students who attended the rally enjoyed Sanders’ speech, and hope to continue spreading the candidate’s message across campus. In the future, the “Wellesley for Bernie” group hopes to expand their membership base and hold more informational sessions to let people know who Sanders is as a candidate, to educate about what his presidential policies are and to inform people of his voting record.
“I think it’s important to just present the information to students instead of trying to persuade them,” Lu said. “[We just want to tell people]: here’s the information, I am sure you can find information on Hillary as well, and [using this information] you can make your own informed decision on who to support.”