A weekend with Bernie Sanders

07/06/2017, by CLAS

A Weekend with Bernie Sanders

Senator Bernie Sanders, internationally renowned for his decision to run against Hillary Clinton for the position of Democratic candidate for President of the United States, and popular for his progressive policies that would completely overhaul the way many think about politics, is arguably one of the most motivating and inspiring speakers of our time. I recently experienced his wonderful ability to interact intimately with every single person in his audience, and to cross divides with his collectivist rhetoric, when he spoke at the Hay Festival on 3 June. Here, despite his relatively old age of 75, this Brooklyn-raised Vermonter found plenty in common with a liberal British audience in the beautiful town of Hay-on-Wye.

The senator spoke to the crowd as part of his European book tour, and in just one short stop on a tour of the U.K. As soon as I learned that Sanders was due to appear at Hay, I alerted my family members that I would be getting those tickets, by some miracle did get the tickets, and then promptly built up my excitement until the big day. I read his book, (read: devoured) Our Revolution in the days before, learning the ins and outs of his political life, from the way he decided to run his presidential campaign, to his agenda for a New America.

The event was chaired by Michael Sheen, who had just finished his own talk, an extremely popular Welsh actor, and also more recently an outspoken advocate for the National Health Service, the centre of much debate at this crucial point in our own general election. Indeed, one of the questions posed to Bernie was on the difference in thought between the UK and the US, on whether healthcare should be considered a right or a privilege. Sanders made his belief in a Medicare for All single-payer system of guaranteed healthcare a strong pillar in his run for presidency.

The speech that he delivered as the Eric Hobsbawm Lecture mainly focused around everyone’s favourite topic, Donald Trump. Clearly no big fan, Sanders announced that the US President did not speak for the majority of people in the United States, stating “There has never been a president of the United States after four months in office who was less popular than Donald Trump.” He also related his battle to direct the Democratic party into a more progressive future to Jeremy Corbyn’s efforts to reshape the Labour party, which was perhaps not a clear endorsement but rather a solid approval of someone he sees as a likeminded individual.

The crowd roared when Sanders arrived on stage, and gave a standing ovation when he left. The level of joy and excitement at seeing the gentleman from Vermont was palpable in the atmosphere, ensuring the event would be something I, nor anyone else, would forget in a hurry.

Emily Jackson is a second-year undergraduate in American and Canadian Literature, History and Culture

Posted in American and Canadian Studies