By Zainab Iqbal
Published: March 6th, 2019
Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont is running for president and he decided to launch his campaign right here at the Brooklyn College East Quad.
“This is not some exaggerated myth. This is the origin story of a political revolutionary,” activist and journalist Shaun King said before telling the story of Sanders—a story which Sanders had always tried to steer away from, not wanting to use it for political gain.
Sanders was born in Brooklyn the same year the Holocaust began. He grew up in Flatbush, went to James Madison High School, and attended Brooklyn College for a year before moving to Chicago.
Throughout his young life, he was an activist, a protestor, and an organizer. And there are plenty of photos to prove it. In 1963, he was arrested for protesting against “Willis Wagons”— trailers that were being used to keep black children out of schools.
“For most of us in our minds, Bernie has always been a disheveled, gray-haired respectable politician,” King said. “We must reject this idea that who Bernie was in the 1960s is irrelevant. Because who you are and what you do, what you fight for, who you fight for, and who you fight against, is always relevant.”
In a speech filled with passion, King spoke highly of Sanders, saying, “Long before we used the phrase ‘white privilege,’ Bernie had the notion that he needed to use his own white privilege to fight back against racism, and bigotry, and inequality. He’s been doing it. Bernie had a desire to hold this country to a higher standard.”
With that, he introduced Sanders as the next president of the United States, asking Brooklyn if they felt ‘the Bern.’ Sanders was welcomed with over 10,000 people cheering and holding their posters in the snow. There were plenty of people in the crowd that traveled to see him. One lady said it took her two and a half hours to get to Brooklyn from Queens, but it was worth it.
“This is going to be a 50-state campaign,” Sanders said. “We’re not going to concede one state to Donald Trump.”
Sanders then joked and thanked the weatherman for “giving us Vermont weather.”
Sanders iterated his many popular ideas that he spoke about in his 2016 campaign—ideas that he has been working on for most of his life. He said this campaign would be a campaign that “says loudly and clearly the underlying principles of our government will not be greed, hatred, and lies. It will not be racism, sexism, xenophobia, homophobia, and religion bigotry.”
Instead, “The principles of our government will be based on justice—on economic justice, on social justice, on racial justice, on environmental justice.”
That was not the only reference to Trump he made in the afternoon. He called out the 45th president on shutting down the government, saying, “Unlike Donald Trump who shut down the government and left 800,000 federal employees without income to pay their bills, I know what it’s like to live in a family that lives paycheck to paycheck.”
“Now it is true. I did not have a father who gave me millions of dollars to build luxury skyscrapers, casinos, and country clubs,” he said. “I did not come from a family that gave me $200,000 allowance every year beginning at the age of three. As I recall, my allowance was 25 cents a week.”
He called for criminal justice reform, promising that, “We are going to end the international embarrassment of the US having more people in jail than any other country on earth.”
Instead of spending $80 billion on jails, Sanders said the money would be spent on jobs and education—education that should be tuition-free.
“We want you to get the best education you can get regardless of your income,” he said. “Good jobs require a good education. And that is why we are going to make public colleges and universities tuition-free.”
He iterated that the minimum wage in the country would be raised to at least $15 an hour, and he would make it easier for workers to join and be protected by unions. He also emphasized his big plan on guaranteeing free healthcare to everyone.
“We’re standing with you, yes Bernie, because we believe in you. But Bernie, we’re standing with you because you help us believe in ourselves,” King said. “You help us believe in our potential to make this country and this world a better place.”