Vermont senator speaks at Liberty about wealth inequality

Photo credit: Leah Seavers

Photo credit: Leah Seavers

Democratic presidential candidate and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders addressed the student body of Liberty University at Convocation Sept. 14.

Sanders focused on his beliefs of creating a moral and just society in which there is wealth equality, meeting the needs of the underprivileged and providing free health insurance for everyone.

After receiving a loud round of applause and shouts from a few faithful supporters, he began by acknowledging the disagreements that he and Liberty students might have but said he is hopeful for tolerance on both sides.

“I believe in women’s rights, the rights for women to control her own body,” Sanders said. “I believe in gay rights and gay marriage. Those are my views, and it is no secret. But I came here today because I believe from the bottom of my heart that it is vitally important for those of us that hold different views to be able to engage in a civil discourse.”

Cody Bright, a senior government politics and policy student at Liberty recognized the importance of hearing from different viewpoints.

“I am grateful that President Falwell brought someone like Bernie Sanders,” Bright said. “I think that he found common ground with the student body and presented a unique way to address those pressing matters. Obviously we don’t agree on certain things, including how these issues should be addressed. But we do agree that something in this nation needs to be done.”

Sanders then acknowledged how easy it is to speak to a crowd of people that agree with one’s point of view, but he said to Liberty, a school founded by Dr. Jerry Falwell Sr. on conservative values, that they must work to find “common ground.”

Sanders, a self-identified socialist, said he is motivated by a vision stated in Matthew 7:12 where Jesus said do unto others what you would have them do to you.

Acknowledging that many Liberty students hold conservative views and are pro-life and against same-sex marriage, Sanders said he believes that he and conservatives can agree on some issues that are of a great importance to America.

“In my view, it would be hard for anyone in this room today to make the case that the United States of America … (is a) just society or anything resembling a just society today,” Sanders, who has been serving in the Senate since 2007, said. “In the United States of America today there is a massive amount of injustice in terms of income and wealth inequality.”

He said though the U.S. is the wealthiest country in the history of the world, most of the wealth is in the top one percent. Sanders passionately described how he does not believe that a few can have the majority of the country’s wealth while there are many people, including children, struggling at or below the poverty line.

“There is no justice when so few have so much and so many have so little,” Sanders said.

“ … In your hearts, you will have to determine the morality of that and the justice of that.”

Sanders asked the student body how they could believe in morality and justice when many children in the U.S. are not being treated as he believes they should. Sanders cited many statistics explaining that the wealth in America is heavily contained in the top few percent.

Sanders moved on to explain his view on the necessity of free health insurance for everyone. He said it is unjust and immoral for people to be dying from the inability to seek medical care. Sanders also added that he believes in family values and that mothers should receive 12 weeks of paid maternity leave.

“(I) believe in family values,” Sanders said. “ … I want you to think if you believe it is a family value that United States of America is the only major country on earth that does not provide paid family and medical leave.”

Sanders said the U.S. has enough money to put so many people in jail, but young people are not receiving the jobs and education they deserve. Over and over again, Sanders emphasized the necessity of people living in a just society, not a society that worships money and wealth.

“Money and wealth should serve the people,” Sanders said. “The people should not have to serve money and wealth.”

After his personal address, Sanders fielded pre-submitted questions from Liberty students during a Q&A session.

When Sanders was asked about how, as a potential president, he would deal with racism in America, he said reform is needed and no one should be discriminated against for the color of their skin. He said Americans need to stand up and act on the fact that racism is not acceptable in the U.S.

Sanders was also asked how he could reconcile his pro-choice view and his passion to help the most vulnerable with many Liberty students’ views that an unborn baby is the most vulnerable. The senator stated that though he respects those who choose not to have abortions, he believes the government should not tell women what to do with their bodies.

The last question Sanders was asked was what he believes the U.S. should do about the Syrian refugee crisis and religious minorities being persecuted in the Middle East. Sanders said the U.S. has the moral responsibility to work with the world to assist refugees. He also added that international conflict should attempt to be resolved, with war being the final option.

The democratic presidential candidate left with the hope that some in attendance would be compelled to change the society in which they are living.

“I would hope very much … that some of you will conclude that if we are honest in striving to be a moral and just society, it is imperative that we have the courage to stand with the poor, to stand with working people and, when necessary, take on very powerful and wealthy people whose greed, in my view, is doing this country enormous harm,” Sanders said.

Rodriguez is the news editor.


  • Props to Liberty University for inviting him and for (apparently) being classy about it.

  • Thank you, Liberty University, for letting Bernie Sanders address your students. Hopefully, we can listen to those with whom we disagree.

    Hopefully, also, we can find common ground on areas where we can work together to help our country and the world confront and solve major issues such as poverty and injustice.
    Mark Rothacher
    Salt Lake City, Utah

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