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Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders Kicks Off Presidential Campaign In Burlington

Credit Pat Bradley/WAMC
Bernie Sanders speaks at presidential campaign kickoff

Vermont U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders officially kicked off his presidential campaign in the city where he began his political career on Tuesday.

A crowd estimated at about 5,000 began gathering before 3 to hear Sanders officially launch his campaign.   “This is an emotional day for me.  Not just for what I’m going to be announcing, but to see so many people here. Today, here in our small state – a state that has led the nation in so many ways – I am proud to announce my candidacy for president of the United States of America.”

The self-described Democratic socialist, Sanders told the crowd his campaign is about the needs of the American people.  “Today, with your support and the support of millions of people throughout our country, we begin a political revolution to transform our country economically, politically, socially and environmentally. Today, we stand here and say loudly and clearly; “Enough is enough. This great nation and its government belong to all of the people, and not to a handful of billionaires.”

Sanders, who is running as a Democrat and challenging frontrunner Hilary Clinton, spoke for just under 40 minutes laying out what he calls a progressive agenda for the country.  The themes he outlined are familiar and are issues he has been focused on for over 30 years. They include income and wealth inequality, rescinding Citizens United and tackling climate change.  “The issue of wealth and income inequality is the great moral issue of our time, it is the great economic issue of our time, it is the great political issue of our time. And we will address it.  This campaign is going to send a message to the billionaire class.  Your greed has got to end.”

In an emotional moment, Sanders reflected on his childhood in Brooklyn.  “My father came to this country from Poland without a penny in his pocket, never made much money. As a kid I learned in many, many ways, every day in my house, what lack of money means to a family and that is a lesson that I have never forgotten and never will forget.”

He also told the crowd that the park in which they were standing is a symbol for what his campaign and supporters can accomplish.  “And to those who say we cannot restore the dream,  just look where we are standing today. This beautiful place was once an unsightly rail yard. It was an eyesore.  As mayor, I worked with the people of Burlington to help turn this waterfront into the beautiful people-oriented public space it is today.  We took that fight to the courts, to the legislature and to the people. And we won. The lesson to be learned – and it is a profound political lesson - is that when people stand together, when people are prepared to fight back, there is nothing that cannot be accomplished.”

You can hear Sanders’ full speech at wamc-dot-org.

Political experts say the 73-year-old faces long odds, but back in the city where he won the mayor’s office by less than a dozen votes, spirits were high on the first official day of campaigning.

Sanders heads to New Hampshire and Iowa later this week.

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