Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) returned to his home stomping grounds on Tuesday to deliver the keynote speech at Brooklyn College, where he reiterated his commitment to dismantling the “corrupt political system undermining American democracy” and called for the creation of a “new America based on progressive” values and the achievement of other tenets for which he rallied during his 2016 presidential campaign.
“You do not have the moral right to turn your back on saving this planet and saving future generations,” Sanders said imploring Tuesday’s graduating class to remain steadfast in what he expressed is their obligation to “reclaim American democracy.”
He said, “Stand up and fight back, reclaim American democracy, and create a government that works for all of us; not just the one percent.” He suggested fighting for a vision of a “new America based on progressive, humane values, not the values of the oligarchy.”
Sanders said two events impacted his life. The first was growing up struggling in Brooklyn. The second was his father’s leaving Poland at the age of 17 from a community which was both very poor and a country “where antisemitism, pogroms and attacks on Jews were not uncommon” He said for those in his father’s family who were not able to escape Poland and Nazi Germany, “racism, right-wing extremism, and ultra-nationalism were not political issues. They were issues of life and death and some of them died horrific deaths. From that experience, what was indelibly stamped in my mind is the understanding that we must never allow demagogues to divide us up by race, by religion, by national origin, by gender, or sexual orientation.”
Taking a nameless jab at the current leadership, Sanders said he could not believe that the same “oligarchic societies, places where the economic and political life of the nation were controlled by a handful of very wealthy people” is the same direction in which the United States is moving. “That is precisely, in my view, what is happening today. Today, in America, the top one-tenth of one percent owns almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent,” he said.
He added that today, “in a broken criminal justice system, we have more people in jail than any other country on earth. And those people are disproportionately black, Latino, and Native American.”
Railing against the nation’s highest earners, he said, “The very, very rich are getting richer, and they get tax breaks. The working class and the middle class, they are suffering and they are seeing drastic cuts in life and death programs that could mean survival or not survival for those families.”
Sanders closed by saying, “Think big, not small, and help us create the nation that we can become.”
Prior to his talk, Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) acknowledged Sanders as “a great senator and a great leader” and announced his “class gift” by reminding students that he wrote a law several years ago that allows students or parents to receive a tax credit if they earn less than $200,000 a year.
Schumer and Sanders are both alumnus of James Madison High School in Brooklyn, New York:
If you’re poor, the federal government helps you out. That’s a good thing. But what about the middle class? So a few years ago, I wrote a law that states you or your parents, whoever pays for graduate school, can take as a full tax credit $2,500 off your federal taxes to help defray the cost of tuition provided — in Washington, there’s always a “provided” — provided, your family income is lower than $200,000 a year. So for those of you who come from families that make below $200,000, make sure you or mom or dad takes that credit… . Now, what happens if you come from a family that makes above $200,000 a year? God bless you.
There are no tax write-offs for those families, Schumer made clear.