Bernie Sanders rallies in West Gym

ZYRUS WHITEHEAD, Staff Writer

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Despite threatening skies and a location change, nearly 500 people gathered in the West Gym for Bernie Sanders’ College Campus Tailgate Tour at UNI on Monday. The event included free pizza, live music and yard games as well as speakers an a 20-minute speech given by Sanders.

Many UNI students attended the rally to get a sense of what the Vermont senator’s campaign stands for. Leisure, youth and human services major Spencer Rodriguez attended the event to get an in-person view of Sanders’ message.

“There are so many sources online, and misinformation is rampant,” Rodriguez said. “When you’re watching the news, you’re getting what they perceive to be important. Here you’re getting a full view … and can make your own informed decisions.” 

Others were already enthusiastic about what Senator Sanders had to say. Elementary education major Lauren Jorge was very eager to be seeing Sanders in person after researching his plans and watching his interviews online. Jorge noted that political events on campus are important to bring awareness to students about the
importance of voting.

Social work major Tyra Wanatee emphasized the importance of being active during times of political change.

“These events are important to educate people and make them aware of our options,” said Wanatee.

Marlon Jackson, English education major said that Sanders’ message appeals to a diverse audience.

“Bernie’s message resonates with all types of different people, as is evident by the diversity at this rally,” Jackson said. Jackson expressed his belief that the time for action is now, and students from all backgrounds should play a role in making a difference. Jackson also mentioned that the reason he supports Senator Sanders is that his message has remained constant throughout his political career.

“He hasn’t been malleable like other politicians, and hasn’t changed his message based on what’s popular at the time,” Jackson said.

Community members also attended the rally, such as retiree Harley Wilde. He enjoys being a part of political events to see how they “energize the youth” about being involved, and urges young voters to watch a variety of news networks in order to have a broad perspective of every candidate. 

Sanders’ address was preceded by Nancy Love, a campus organizer for the Bernie Sanders campaign in Iowa. Two UNI students, Cade Olmstead and Shannon Williams, then spoke about the importance of Sanders’ plan in their lives including struggles with student debt and low wages. They also introduced the idea of free college tuition.

Volunteers at the rally also noted the importance of free college tuition.

“Not everyone gets the privilege to go to college and not everyone has family who is able to support them. Having free college is very important because we need productive members of society,” said Ochuko Avwunuma, a volunteer with the Bernie Sanders campaign. 

Sanders’ primary focus for the rally was the progressive agenda, centered around his ideas regarding income inequality, health care for all, canceling student debt and free college. 

“College should be available to all people, regardless of their income,” Sanders said. He also touched on the impact of fossil fuel industries on the environment, ending the war on drugs and restoring the legal status of DACA recipients.

The audience was very enthusiastic throughout his entire time onstage, and cheered several times with every point Sanders made. Some items that especially evoked cheers from the crowd included Sanders’ takes on women’s and LGBTQ+ rights, common sense gun safety legislation and America’s broken and racist criminal justice system. 

During the rally, the senator emphasized the importance of young people voting in elections.

“Your generation turns out to be the most progressive younger generation in the history of this country,” he said. “Your generation votes in much lower numbers than older generations.” 

Sanders ended his speech by reminding people that “this country belongs to all of us, not just a handful of billionaires.”

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