This past Saturday, Oct. 3, presidential candidate and current senator Bernie Sanders drew large crowds in Springfield and Boston, Mass. Nearly 6,000 people attended the Springfield rally and over 26,000 attended the Boston event. In addition to students from the University, students from schools including Amherst College, Williams College, Smith College, and the University of Connecticut attended the Springfield rally to hear Sanders speak.
For hours before Sanders began his speech, chants could be heard throughout the stadium. Phrases like, “The people united will never be defeated,” “Trans lives matter,” and “Black lives matter,” erupted in solidarity from the passionate crowd.
Emma Llano ’19, who made the trip to Springfield with a few friends, commented on the overwhelming sense of solidarity that she felt.
“I could really feel this sense of unity, that we were really all on the same page,” she said.
Llano, whose status as a citizen of Peru will prohibit her from voting in the 2016 presidential election, felt compelled to attend the Springfield event as an alternate way to express support.
“Due to my citizenship status, I am unable to vote, which makes it even more important for me to be involved in the political process,” Llano said. “Bernie is just a candidate I really believe in and want to support in any way I can.”
Maggie O’Donell ’19 spoke about her reasons for attending the event.
“I’m here to support the true democratic process,” O’Donnell said.
Mika Braun ’19, decided to attend the event on a whim.
“I just saw the Facebook event and was like, ‘Sure, that sounds awesome,’” said Braum.
Anna Rojek ’16, Jordan Friedland ’16, Suet Ning Wong ’16, Pat Jivamongkol ’16, and Hannah Steinberg ’16 live in the same house and decided to make the trip out to Springfield together.
“We all live in the same house and after seeing the event on Facebook decided to drive over,” Rojek said.
Prior to Sanders’ taking the stage, three guest speakers addressed their own visions for a better America. The speakers included environmentalist and author Bill McKibben, National Nurses United Co-President Karen Higgens, and Brandeis University student Lexi Oullette. Higgens spoke on class issues and economic inequality, focusing on healthcare.
“[Sanders] is the president for the 99 percent,” she said.
Oullette also discussed class inequality, focusing on student debt and Sanders’ stance on higher education.
“[We must] fight to ensure education is not a classist system and available to everyone,” Oullette said. “[This is] integral to our success for overall growth in our country.”
McKibben used his time to speak about climate change and other environmental issues that Sanders plans to tackle if elected as president. McKibben mentioned that even in 2011, Sanders was speaking openly about the issue of climate change. He also mentioned Sanders’ status as a forerunner on other pressing issues such as police brutality. He began on a humorous note before turning more serious.
“It’s possible it’s his good looks,” McKibben said. “The reason for the Sanders explosion [is that] he says what he means and means what he says.”
During his speech, Sanders covered a lot of ground outlining his plans for his presidency. He covered topics ranging from institutional racism and sexism, immigration reform, international policy, and focused especially on economic oppression and income inequality in America.
He stated that his goal is to raise the minimum wage to 15 dollars per hour and establish equal pay for men and women. Sanders also called for comprehensive immigration reform and paths toward citizenship. On the topic of gun violence, Sanders called attention to the shootings that have taken place in Oregon, Charleston, and Newtown. He commented on the need for sensible gun legislation.
“Guns should not be owned by people who should not have them,” he said.
Sanders also critiqued the federal government’s spending on prisons and the mass incarceration of its citizens.
“I want this country to not have the distinction of having the most incarceration, but being the best educated,” he said. “[It is] more important to focus on jobs and education than jails and incarcerations.”
He then discussed racism and racial inequality in America.
“[We] need to overcome institutional racism and reform a broken criminal justice system,” Sanders said. “It is known that unarmed African Americans have been killed in police custody. When an officer breaks the law that officer must be held accountable.”
Sanders also vocalized his desires for the most vibrant democracy possible for this country with a high voter turnout.
“When we come together, we can build a government that represents all of the people,” he said. “No president of the United States can do what has to be done to rebuild a crumbling middle class until we start a political revolution.”
He left the audience with two ideas to keep in mind before leaving the stage to shake hands and meet with supporters in the crowd.
“Think big and not small,” he said. “If we stand together, there is nothing we can not accomplish.”