By JENNA WOS, Copy Editor
As I walked past the thousands of people, young and old, in the line stretching from Eastern Michigan University’s Convocation Center, past it’s football field and baseball stadium and around the block, I was pumped up like I was waiting for the doors to open at a concert. Although Eastern Michigan does host musicians at this venue and some people in line were dancing, who we were waiting for in the 25 degree weather would get the crowd cheering in an entirely different, yet just as riveting way.
On Monday, Feb. 15, Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders made a campaign stop in Ypsilanti, Mich. The convocation center held more than 9,000 people, who did the wave and enjoyed pre-show songs like “Rockin’ in the Free World” and “Disco Inferno (Burn, Baby, Burn).” Many supporters donned the expected “Feel the Bern” t-shirts, a man wore one saying “Bernie Trumps The Donald,” and a woman wore an American flag windbreaker jacket, which I can only assume was a symbol of hope for “A Future to Believe In,” Sanders’ campaign slogan.
Although I anticipated such apparel, the signs were what caught my attention: “Physicians for Bernie” and “Nurses Feel the Bern.” Before the Vermont Senator spoke, Katie Scott, a registered nurse at the University of Michigan Health System, introduced him. Scott said that Sanders is the only candidate who recognizes the health system is beyond repair and that healthcare is a human right, and that he is the only candidate who doesn’t have a super PAC backing his campaign. Because of this, she said, the Michigan Nurses Association officially endorses Bernie Sanders for president.
After the anxious, three-hour wait, Sanders took the stage and didn’t waste any time. He opened by catering to Michigan, having just met with seven Flint residents.
“We are poisoning our children,” he said, questioning how this could happen in the United States in 2016. He told the story of a mother whose child is intellectual development deteriorating in front of her because of the Flint water crisis, asking us to empathize.
“Criminals!” the audience shouted, referring to Michigan’s leaders and their lack of protection. Sanders replied by saying he’s called for Gov. Snyder’s resignation.
“If the local government cannot protect those children, if the state government cannot protect those children, then the federal government better get in and do the right thing,” he said.
Sanders touched on many of the issues our country is facing and his proposals for rational solutions: healthcare for all, saying it’s ridiculous that someone who becomes ill or injured has to worry about becoming bankrupt on top of it; pay equity, saying that there is no economical reason and that it is “old fashioned sexism” that women don’t make as much as men; a $15 an hour minimum wage (one that is already working in cities like San Francisco and Seattle) as opposed to the “starvation wage” we have now; the correlation between the unemployment rate and the number of incarcerated people (which is higher than any other country in the world), saying we need to put justice back into our criminal justice system; free public college tuition to anyone desiring a higher education, asking audience members how much student debt they owe and saying that it’s “incomprehensible” that we don’t want the most educated workforce in such a competitive global economy, and that it’s not a radical idea that we should invest in education rather than incarceration, as this system exists in many countries; that corporate America needs to invest in America, rather than outsourcing work to other countries for a smaller cost and larger profit, in addition to providing decent-paying jobs rebuilding our infrastructure; and that “the debate is over. Climate change is real,” recognizing that we need to focus on the environment and transforming our energy system away from fossil fuel.
However, to move forward with Sanders’ progressive ideas, he said that we need to make certain that every American is involved in shaping the future of our country. Change doesn’t start from the top and make it’s way down, it starts with the people.
“When the people lead, the leaders follow,” Sanders said.
In pointing out that this country should not be based on racism and segregation, he spoke about the bombings that occurred in Birmingham, Ala. during the Civil Rights Movement, referring to them as “terrorist attacks,” and how it was the people who stood up to make the changes, saying that “if we are smart,” we will stand up and have the courage to fight for our basic human rights now.
“If they could do it then, we can do it today,” Sanders said.
Hearing Sanders actually say these things was even more motivating than simply reading his proposals. To see so many supporters wanting to create change alongside him was encouraging, but it is the people whose vote he doesn’t already have who need to listen to this attention-commanding man’s intelligent ideas. His straightforward manner, I assume, is from serving in public office and dealing with the political system’s faults for over 30 years, pushing him to cut out the nonsense, look problems straight in the face and create solutions. He was stern, yet comical in saying that we need to stop thinking small and start thinking “yuuuge,” and most of all, he was inspirational.
“When we become politically engaged and stand together, there is nothing we cannot accomplish.”