“We need your help,” Bernie Sanders announced. “We need the idealism, the energy and the intelligence of millions of young people to join us in the fight to make America the type of country we know we must become.”
After this direct appeal to the independent Vermont Senator's audience at the University of Chicago campus, the crowd erupted in a roaring round of applause. Monday’s sticky heat and humidity did not prevent thousands of Sanders supporters – including students and community members from the entire Chicago area – to pack UChicago’s Rockefeller Chapel to capacity. Rally attendees sat squished together in the pews, cooling down with Bernie Sanders fans and sweating through their Bernie Sanders shirts to demonstrate their support for the Democratic presidential candidate.
Sanders began his speech by reflecting fondly upon his experience at UChicago [cue joke about the impossibility of having fun at U Chicago]. He graduated from there in 1964 and said he learned the most from off-campus activities, including participating in the civil rights movement, the peace movement and the union movement.
“Change never takes place from the top down,” he said. “It always takes place from the bottom up.”
Sanders then laid out his platform: one that stands for social justice and narrowing the income gap. The highlights are as follows:
- $15/hour minimum wage
- Equal pay for equal work
- Support for same sex marriage
- Support for women’s abilities to make choices about their own bodies
- 12-week paid family and medical leave
- Working with the international community to combat climate change
- Campaign finance reform
“I’m often asked by the media and others - among all the issues, which is the most important, but I can never answer it,” Sanders said. “But there is one issue that is unique because it influences every other issue.”
He then implored the audience to let him be as blunt as he could.
“As a result of the Citizens United Supreme Court case, the American political system has been totally corrupted,” Sanders announced. “American democracy is not supposed to be about billionaires buying elections.”
After citing the billions of dollars the Koch brothers spend on elections, Sanders went on to juxtapose those numbers with the devastating unemployment rates among America’s youth. Sanders also said there is a direct correlation between the mass incarceration of young people in this country and the high levels of youth unemployment.
“You are living in the wealthiest country in the world,” Sanders told the audience. “When we stand together, we can accomplish extraordinary things.”
The audience’s enthusiasm about Sanders carried through to the question and answer session, as students cheered when he answered their questions. Many audience members said the rally solidified their support for the candidate.
“I thought that was a really tremendous speech, and I think he spoke a lot about very important things,” University of Chicago student Daniel Betancourt said. “He already had my vote.”
Students from other schools in the Chicago area came out to show their support for the candidate as well.
“I’ve never heard a politician speak so truthfully,” Columbia College Chicago student Jessica Santorock said.