Bernie Sanders makes campaign stop at GVSU

GVL / Emily Frye
Democratic Presidential Candidate Bernie Sanders makes a last minute stop at Grand Valley State University on Friday Mar. 4, 2016. Sanders is trying to pull all of his supporters to the voting polls before Tuesdays primary election.

Emily Frye

GVL / Emily Frye Democratic Presidential Candidate Bernie Sanders makes a last minute stop at Grand Valley State University on Friday Mar. 4, 2016. Sanders is trying to pull all of his supporters to the voting polls before Tuesday’s primary election.

Maddie Forshee

On March 4, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) made a sudden campaign stop at Grand Valley State University to spread the “feel the Bern” fire to GVSU students. His rally in the Fieldhouse Arena was a last-minute effort to bring young people to the polls just four days prior to Michigan’s primary elections.

Sanders talked about fixing what he considers a rigged economy, problems with the criminal justice system and promoted himself as being a candidate for all people, not just some.

“We have fought and died to defend American democracy, but right now we have a corrupt campaign that’s undermining (it),” Sanders said to the crowd, nearly 5,000 people strong. “American democracy is supposed to be one person, one vote. What American democracy is not supposed to be about is super PACs and billionaires buying elections.”

The line to enter the rally began to form well before the doors opened at 4:30 p.m., stretching past the Kindschi Hall of Science. Supporters wore Sanders-themed hats and shirts, holding flags, signs and the occasional oversized cutout of Sanders’ face.

One such Sanders-head-wielding supporter was GVSU student Jose Rodriguez, a liberal studies major from Muskegon, Michigan.

Rodriguez said it was his third time seeing Sanders speak, and every time is just as good as the last.

“His campaign is very human-centered,” Rodriguez said. “He’s very about the people and their needs. He’s the only candidate fighting for a political revolution, as he says.”

Within hours of the announcement that Sanders would be visiting GVSU, protests were already in the works. However, these protests did not come to fruition.

Sanders drew a mixed crowd to the Fieldhouse Arena, including the young and old, black and white and everything in between.

One attendee, Will Lowry, a junior at Black River High School in Holland, Michigan, isn’t even old enough to vote, but wanted to tag along with his family see Sanders talk.

“Since Bernie and (Hillary) Clinton align so closely on so many different policies, I really wanted to see him highlight the differences, and he definitely showed up,” Lowry said.

Always proud of the grassroots way his campaign is funded, Sanders cited that as the main difference between himself and the former secretary of state.

Clinton, Sanders pointed out, accepts corporate contributions and has a super PAC backing her during her presidential bid.

Sanders, on the other hand, has set the record for all-time contributions, clocking in at four million individual contributions on March 1. With an average donation of $27, Sanders is proud that his campaign is funded by the American people, rather than billionaires.

Throughout Sanders’ speech, he emphasized that he wants to be “for the people.” When talking about different topics, he would reiterate that he listens to different communities when considering policies.

“This campaign is listening to women,” he said, touching on wage equality.

He went on to criticize the current criminal justice system, saying “This campaign is listening to our brothers and sisters in the African American community, and the Latino community and the Native American community.”

Knowing his audience, Sanders made sure to talk about his tuition-free education plan. GVSU student Morgan Shepherd said she supports Sanders’ higher education plan.

“Being a student and being in debt, he’s talking about reforming education. Not just college, but everything. He’s connecting the dots,” Shepherd said. “If you want to be successful, you need to start at the bottom. It made a lot of connections that I hadn’t made. ”

Sanders said he knows that free education sounds like a difficult thing to accomplish, but thinks it’s high time for it to happen.

“I’m criticized a lot because people say I’m thinking too big, I’m too radical,” he said. “I don’t think so. We have hundreds of thousands of qualified young people who cannot get a higher education because they lack the funding. If we believe that education is a good thing, if we want the best, educated workforce in the world, why are we punishing millions of people for getting that education?”

Sanders also focused on women’s issues like compulsory maternity leave, universal health care, the Flint, Michigan water crisis and climate change, discussing how he plans to implement change in each area.

GVSU student Austin VanDyke, as well as the other students, said that Sanders addressed the broad scope of the issues he wants to change well and honestly.

“He’s honest, and he’s very real, he’s not trying to say anything to impress anybody,” VanDyke said. “I think that he’s really a champion of the people.”

Heading into Michigan’s March 8 primary, Sanders will need to rely on a large youth voter turnout to secure a win in the state.

“Every person in this room is enormously powerful if you choose to recognize and exercise that power,” he said.

When it comes to the general election, Sanders is confident in his chances.

“We will defeat Donald Trump because the American people understand that coming together and supporting each other trumps divisiveness,” he said. “We will defeat Trump because the American people understand that community and the need to help each other trumps selfishness.

“Most profoundly, the vast majority of the American people, no matter our race, our religion or where we come from, understand that love trumps hatred.”

Sanders and Clinton will go head-to-head at the Democratic debate on March 6 at the Whiting Auditorium in Flint.

To find your local polling station for the primary election, visit