At Kent State University’s Student Recreation and Wellness Center, you can typically find students and community members using the workout facilities and fitness rooms to better themselves physically. On Saturday morning, the Center’s normal purposes were divided.
Bernie Sanders Rallies Student Support for Hillary Clinton at KSU
Bernie Sanders, junior United States Senator of Vermont and former presidential candidate, spoke in favor of a Hillary Clinton presidency Saturday, Sept. 17. The rally, an appeal from Sanders for students to better themselves politically, took place at the aforementioned campus rec center. The center’s basketball court was sectioned off, the leftmost side holding approximately 1,000 attendees.
After a procession of Democratic supporters, both campaign officials and student representatives, spoke to the crowd, Sanders took to the podium to discuss the contribution of millennials to the November 2016 election. His beginning statement of “We have got to talk about making public colleges and universities tuition free!” was met with widespread cheering from the student-driven audience.
“I think his message has really resonated with a lot of younger people,” David Solberg, senior English major said. “It’s a message of making college more affordable and giving general financial assistance to people who are bewildered by the process of paying for life.”
However, students also took into consideration that Sanders wasn’t just speaking of his own plan – he wanted to endorse Clinton’s.
“Hillary Clinton believes in what I believe,” Sanders said. “What we want you to do when you leave school is to go out and live your lives – go out, get married, have kids, get a car, get a house and have a good job.”
It’s this ideal post-college mindset that has attracted millennials to the campaign paths of both Sanders and Clinton. Student volunteers populated the event, acting as the primary ticket keepers and registration advocates, a majority of these students making up the College Democrat organization on campus.
“We have to get everyone a ticket into the event, and that includes hopefully getting them to register with the College Dems,” Julie Benson, freshman exploratory major said.
Benson, although initially enthusiastic about Sanders, admitted to hoping for an increased passion for Hillary’s campaign post-speech.
“I love Bernie. He’s my favorite person ever,” she said. “People love Bernie, but they’re not really sold on Hillary yet. We have to understand what kind of position we’re in, even if you don’t like her. I want to get that excitement back for, hopefully, the next President of the United States!”
This was Sanders’ mission in coming to the university – to get students excited for a candidate other than himself.
“Secretary Clinton is out campaigning on [issues] as we speak,” he said. “You don’t have to sit around worrying about student debt for the rest of your life.”
According to the Senator, both he and Clinton are striving toward granting every family in America with an income of $125,000 or less the ability to send their kids to college for free. To put things in perspective, this category makes up 83% of the population. Because of this data, Sanders said the premise is not a radical one.
“It exists in countries all over the world,” he said. “In fact, in many great colleges and universities here in America, that was the case 40 to 50 years ago.”
Although college debt was the main focus of the 25-minute speech, Sanders also covered topics such as climate change, gay marriage, illegitimization of African Americans and citizens uninterested in voting.
“I think it’s important that before you state an opinion, you should really be informed about it,” Solberg said. “If I don’t know what Hilary stands for, that’s not a really good reason to vote. [I would be] voting out of a kneejerk reaction of, ‘oh, I think she’s better.’ I think my intuition is correct that Donald Trump is a maniac, but I would like to have articulated reasons when I vote.”
Sanders mentioned this desire for information before casting a vote in the election, which will take place Nov. 8.
“What serious politics in a democracy is about is respecting different people’s points of view,” he said. “We must look into our own hearts and say, ‘what are the issues that impact my life, my family’s lives and my community’s lives? Who is going to be best to address those issues?’”
According to Sanders, the top one-tenth of the economic one percent owns nearly as much wealth as the bottom ninety percent. This comment was met with several “boos” from the mostly millennial crowd.
Although Sanders hit on several specific voter issues, he also chose to explain the political system in-depth to the crowd, highlighting the merits of making one’s voice, especially that of a first-time voter, heard.
“We have an electoral college, and it is an election composed of fifty separate states,” he said. “There are a number of states, like my own state of Vermont, that will vote for Secretary Clinton. There are some states, unfortunately, that will vote for Mr. Trump. Then there are states that are called battleground states – you are in one them!”
— Ben Orner (@Ben_Orner) October 5, 2016
— Alyssa Schmitt (@MsAlyssaSchmitt) October 5, 2016