Online Content Editor
“What does it mean if you can go to a university but you can’t afford to go to the university?”
Vermont senator and Democratic presidential nomination candidate Bernie Sanders asked this question to an overflow crowd of about 7,000 people in Birmingham on Monday night. This was Sanders’ first visit to Alabama since he began his campaign.
This question was inspired by the late Martin Luther King Jr., whose life and legacy were remembered and referenced during Sanders’ “A Future to Believe In” rally on Jan. 18.
Sanders, who supports a $15 minimum wage and free tuition at public colleges and universities, cited a famous quote by King about inequality: “What good is having the right to sit at a lunch counter if you can’t afford to buy a hamburger and a cup of coffee?”
Sanders reiterated his plan to tax Wall Street speculators to fully cover the $75 billion annual cost of these changes. BernieSanders.com says: “If the taxpayers of this country could bail out Wall Street in 2008, we can make public colleges and universities tuition-free and debt-free throughout the country.”
“Our job is to tell every child in this country, every parent in this country, every teacher in this country that if every child works hard, does well, that kid, regardless of family income, will get a college education,” Sanders said.
Sanders paused his speech when someone in the crowd needed medical attention, which gave him a segue into his views on health care: a single-payer system that would cover all Americans, a proposal that Sanders views as a human right.
Troy student Jacob Barber, a junior English and Spanish double major from Alabaster, was in attendance among the crowd of over 1,000 who stood outside the auditorium.
“The auditorium was filled to capacity when we arrived, so we watched on a screen in a park across the street,” Barber said. “Fortunately, Sanders made a point of stopping and briefly speaking to those of us outside before going inside for his main speech.”
Although Barber had to watch the rally in freezing temperatures, he said Sanders’ speech left him continuously supportive.
“Bernie is remarkably consistent, and so his message here was the same as in other speeches of his I’ve watched online, as well as his comments in the Democratic debates,” Barber said. “He sticks to a substantive discussion of the issues rather than the shallow bluster and grandstanding of the Republican candidates.”
Barber explained his reasoning for his support of Sanders.
“Bernie wants to end mass incarceration and stop the practice of private prisons,” Barber said. “Bernie believes health care is a human right and supports a single-payer system.
“Bernie affirms the truth that black lives matter and will fight against institutional racism. Bernie knows education is invaluable and has a plan for tuition-free public colleges, as well as lowering interest rates on student loans.”
Barber said that for these and other reasons, such as Sanders’ support for pay equity for women, elevation of minimum wage and legislation to guarantee paid family leave, he will be voting for Sanders in the Democratic primaries which will be held in Alabama on March 1.
Additionally, Sanders spoke about paid family leave, income inequality, climate change and prison reform.
Sanders ended his speech by urging Alabamians to reach out to each other and “stop voting against your best interests.”
“To truly honor Dr. King, we must fight to carry out his radical and bold vision for America,” Sanders said. “He saw the relationship between racism and economics and war. That was his courage.”