On April 6th, the Liacouras Center was filled to capacity, and it wasn’t because of a basketball game, concert, or graduation.
It was for a 77-year-old Vermont Senator in the midst of an unlikely Presidential Campaign.
Bernie Sanders’ campaign started from the grassroots, relying on small contributions from supporters rather than money from donors special interests. Since he announced his candidacy more than one year ago, he has pushed his agenda of social equality, economic and income inequality, and criminal justice reform among many other issues. He mobilized a devoted following across the country, comprised of many millennial and younger voters, which led to thousands packing his rallies all across the country – and Temple was no different. Take a look at some sights from the day below:
Sanders’ visit to campus was announced two days prior, and consistent with the rest of his campaign, his support followed him. The first person to line up outside the Liacouras Center that morning was New Jersey resident Liz Maratea, who arrived at 6:00am. That line grew throughout the morning, and wrapped around the stadium, back to Broad Street, and kept building all the way to Girard Avenue half of a mile away. Supporters all had their own reasons for waiting all day. Mike Greenberg, who had voted for a Republican in the last eight elections, said “Bernie Sanders is the only candidate who’s standing up for young people.
“If check Bernie’s record, he’s had the same stance on issues like, 40, 30 years back…I think it’s really important to have someone who tells it like it is,” said Temple Sophomore Morgan O’Donnell
“In order for to have a successful nation, we need to make sure everybody is prepared to have a fair chance in this economy for class mobility,” said Dennis Meserole, who drew a crowd of his own as he donned a larger than life, Sanders costume.
While, thousands filled the Liacouras Center, those who were too late were sent to the overflow venue across the street at McGonigle Hall to watch the rally. However, they got their share of the action as Sanders made a spontaneous trip across the street to address his supporters who didn’t make it inside.
Sander’s independent spirit resonated strongly at Temple, and two of his supporters made sure to get the word out. Freshman Jeremy Del Valle and Junior Kim Selig canvased at the Bell Tower multiple days a week for the Senator. Both of them believed that Sanders was the candidate the country needed.
“He’s really just brought out alot of average Americans believe”, said Del Valle, who also works for Camp Bernie, a group of Sanders supporters living in Philadelphia who Partnered with Better Families. “He’s putting money where the people want, not where the big money want is, like our infrastructure and our schools and things that are important, not things that make money.”
Selig is also a Sanders supporter, and finds common ground with him. “I think his views on education, his views on health care, his views on campaign finance reform are all very important things that all affect my life very much.”
While they both lend their support to Sanders. they said their overall goal- registering people to vote, is much more important. As they pushed for Bernie in the center of campus, they registered people to vote, something they felt needed to be done.
“People need to take the opportunity to realize how powerful their individual voices are,” said Selig.
“We’re trying to get people to get that stigma away from the government and get them back involved and actually have a hand in it,” Del Valle added.
Together they registered over 1,000 new voters on Temple’s campus- votes the Sanders campaign needed more than ever. According to Pew Research data, millennials (ages 18-25) account for 31% of the voting population. However, in each of the last five elections, they have cast less than 18% of the total votes. After the flurry of primary season, Sanders was still hanging tough against the now presumptive Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton. However, mathematically eliminated from the race without enough super delegates to sway the nomination, Sanders conceded, endorsing Clinton for President on July 12th.
With his goal of the presidency gone, Sanders’ long term impact remains to be seen. However, the support he garnered at Temple, Drexel University later that month, and around the country opened many younger eyes to the world of politics and the importance of getting involved.
Sanders will be speaking at the DNC Monday night, as he takes the stage along with First Lady Michelle Obama and immigration reform activist Astrid Silva.
“Monday will focus on putting the future of American families front and center and how we’re stronger together when we build an economy that works for everyone, not just those at the top and when everyone has a chance to live up to their God-given potential,” according to the DNCC statement- a position Sanders should have no trouble chiming in on.