Presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders addressed the student body of George Mason University in Vermont during a special town hall Oct. 28. College campuses across the country also held simulcast events, as the town hall was streamed live on Sanders’ official website.
Sanders says students of over “300 colleges from every state in the union” tuned into the town hall.
Thousands of college students gathered to hear Sanders discuss topics important to today’s young voters and many liberal Americans.
George Mason student Ja’Lisha Urquhart opened the floor for Sanders with a moving speech about society’s expectations of her as a black woman. She told the crowd that someone like Sanders was “her inspiration” because he believes “black lives truly do matter.”
This was reflected during the first Democratic debate when moderator Anderson Cooper asked Sanders whether he believes “all lives matter” or “black lives matter,” to which he replied, “Black lives matter.”
Before launching into his own beliefs at the town hall, Sanders invited three students from Georgetown University, George Washington University and the University of Maryland to take the floor and discuss issues most important to college-age youth.
Sanders then discussed mass incarceration and his belief that American prisons are unnecessarily overcrowded.
“I will not be the president of a country that has more people in jail than any other country,” Sanders said. “I will be the president of the country that has the best educated population on Earth.”
Sanders also spoke on income inequality, a staple in his campaign and senate work. A self-proclaimed socialist, Sanders says he believes the wealth held by billionaires in America is unfair and that the middle and lower class should have access to better pay.
“I will be the president of an economy that works for all of us, not just the billionaires,” Sanders said. “I will not be the president of a country that moves toward oligarchy. I want a vibrant democracy.”
Critics of Sanders argue America is not ready for socialist policies. For baby boomers and those who grew up during the Cold War, socialism is linked with communism. NBC’s “Today” host Savannah Guthrie says socialism “sounds scary.” Donald Trump went as far as to call Sanders a maniac.
Despite public fear of new and pioneering policies, college students and millennials flock to Sanders for his innovative beliefs of equity and acceptance. When it comes to healthcare, he says it should be a human right and not just a privilege. When it comes to post-secondary education, he says a college degree is far more necessary in today’s economy, just to land an entry-level job, and should be allotted to anyone seeking a higher education.
There was no point during the town hall where Sanders’ response to questions didn’t elicit cheers from the audience. His views match up with many young voters, and the turnout at the George Mason town hall attests to this.