By Phillip Wyatt
August 26, 2015
Bernie Sanders, Democratic presidential candidate, spoke in front of a lively crowd at the TD Convention Center in Greenville, South Carolina Aug. 21.
More than 2,800 attendees crowded the center to hear the Vermont senator’s platform, as he shared and addressed key aspects of his election campaign.
Sanders currently sits in second place on the Democratic Party polls with an approval rating of 21 percent, according to the Huffington Post. Hillary Clinton secures the top spot with an approval rating of 49.6 percent.
Two keynote speakers expressed their support before Sanders took the podium. Jayde Barton, a graduate of Furman University with a bachelors of science in political science, said she endorses Sanders based on his dedication to civil rights, even when it wasn’t popular.
“Every other campaign is dependent on super PACs funded by billionaires and millionaires. We do not have a super PAC, and do not want the money of corporate America,” said Deb Marrow, former Democratic congressional nominee and campaign volunteer.
The largest individual contribution so far for Sanders’ campaign is $400,000, compared to the billions of dollars of donations received by other presidential candidates from large corporations, according to Marrow. The average of all contributions to Sanders’ campaign is $31.30 per donor.
“This campaign is bringing people together: white, black, Hispanic, Native American, men and women, straight or gay,” Marrow said. “When we stand together, there is nothing we cannot accomplish.”
Sanders was met with deafening applause and shouts of praise as he approached the microphone.
“People of this country understand in their gut that corporate greed is destroying our country,” Sanders began. “There is something profoundly wrong when one-tenth of one percent owns as much wealth as the bottom 98 percent.”
In South Carolina, 27 percent of children are living in poverty, according to Sanders.
“Wages in America are just too damn low. Let’s be honest,” Sanders said, “the federal minimum wage of $7.75 is a starvation wage. It must become a living wage of $15 an hour or more. It’s not a radical idea, it’s an American idea.”
According to Sanders, today’s median family income is $5,000 less than it was in 1999.
“That is not what the American economy should be,” Sanders said. “We need an economy that works for working families, not billionaires.”
Sanders stressed an end to institutional racism and for-profit prisons, demilitarization of police and rethinking the war on drugs.
“We have many young Americans with records for smoking marijuana, but not one billionaire for destroying the economy,” he said.
Sanders said he voted against the war in Iraq, noting Republicans forget 6,700 soldiers died in Iraq and Afghanistan, while 500,000 suffer with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Sanders stressed military control of nuclear weapons in the Middle East.
“War should be used as a last resort,” Sanders said. “A great nation must do anything it can to maintain world peace.” Sanders said he wishes to provide Medicare and Medicaid to all citizens, resolving the United States’ healthcare crisis.
“The Affordable Care Act is far from perfect,” he added. “The United States of America today is the only major country on earth that does not guarantee healthcare to all its citizens.”
Sanders said he wants to close the pay gap between men and women in corporate America, stating women make 78 cents less than men, per dollar. He said he hopes all men in attendance stand with women.
“(Republicans) are telling women in America they cannot control their bodies, they’re not smart enough to purchase contraceptives they need,” Sanders said. The candidate expressed his support of the LGBT+ rights movement.
“Our gay brothers and sisters should have the right to marry and enjoy federal benefits,” Sanders said.
Sanders brought attention to the student debt and loan issues afflicting millions of people.
“We live in a highly competitive (nation) with hundreds of thousands of bright and qualified young people who are wanting an education and can’t get (one),” Sanders said.
Sanders said he believes all public universities should be tuition free for students wishing to further their education after high school.
“This campaign isn’t just about Sanders, Clinton, and Trump,” Sanders said. “It’s about you, your kids and your parents.”
Sanders called for assistance from voters to remedy America’s financial and civil issues.
“This campaign can transform America. I can’t do it alone. We have got to do it together. That’s not just rhetoric, it is fact,” Sanders said.
Lori Theriault, instructor at The Village Potters in the River Arts District in Asheville, attended the rally in Greenville and expressed her gratitude for Sanders’ campaign.
“He has been what everyone sees today from day one. He is not pandering to a weary electorate looking for change. He is one of that weary electorate, but he believes change can and must come from the bottom up,” Theriault said.
A Vermont native, Theriault said she has followed Sanders throughout many of his campaigns..
“Seeing Bernie get into the race was a refreshing delight, and I’ve enjoyed watching people around me get to know him,” Theriault said.
Senator Sanders’ closing statement left attendees with a sense of hope and unity with the prospect of his election.
“Brothers and sisters, if we do not allow them to divide us up, if we stand together, there is nothing, nothing, nothing we cannot accomplish, and I look forward to making that happen for you,” Sanders said.
For more information on Sanders’ campaign, visit www.berniesanders.com.