Bernie Sanders lauds King’s courage, calls for change in US priorities
FLORENCE, S.C. – Potential presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders spoke briefly Monday evening at the Florence Branch of the NAACP’s Martin Luther King celebration.
Sanders said one of the reasons he accepted the invitation to attend and speak was because he believed King was one of the greatest leaders in American history. He said he boarded a bus while attending the University of Chicago and made his way to Washington to hear King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. He added that he had come to Florence at the beheadst of state Rep. Terry Alexander and the Florence Branch of the NAACP.
“The short point I want to make in studying Dr. King’s life is that what we see on television tonight is the extraordinary work Dr. King did in desegregating the South, taking on Bull Connor and the incredible violence that he brought, passing the Voting Rights Act, the Civil Rights Act, all extraordinary achievements.”
King, he continued, accomplished so much more.
Sanders said that after King won the Noble Peace Prize in 1964, he turned toward opposition to the Vietnam War and his Poor People’s Campaign.
The country, Sanders said, faces the same problems of inequality and militarism now that King saw in 1965.
“Dr. King spoke about what he called the triple evils of American society: racism, poverty and war and militarism,” Sanders continued. “Our job, it would seem to me, is not just to honor the memory of Dr. King but to put into our own hearts his incredible courage in standing up to the political and economic establishment of his time.”
Sanders said King called for a change in national priorities, something he said the country should do today.
Sanders called for more funding to prevent childhood poverty instead of tax breaks for the top 1 percent of taxpayers. And he said when teachers were struggling to make a living wage, the country did not need to spend $700 billion on its military.
“In the spirit of Dr. King, we have got to have the courage to get our priorities right,” Sanders said.
He said there was no excuse for veterans to be sleeping on the street and a “starvation” wage of $7.25 as minimum wage. America, he said, could not continue to be the only major country not to guarantee health care to all of its citizens.
Sanders also called for tuition-free public colleges and universities, the lowering of student debt and an expansion of Social Security.
Sanders challenged Hillary Clinton for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination in 2016. He secured 23 presidential primaries compared to Clinton’s 34, coming in second in the nomination process.
Sanders, an independent who caucuses with the Democratic Party, is currently the junior senator from Vermont. He was elected to the Senate in 2006 with more than 65 percent of the vote. Sanders was re-elected in 2012 and 2018. Prior to running for Senate, Sanders served as the representative for Vermont’s seat in the House of Representatives beginning in 1990. He served as mayor of Vermont’s largest city, Burlington, for three terms in the 1980’s.
A Brooklyn native, Sanders is a graduate of the University of Chicago. He settled in Vermont in the 1960s and ran several third-party campaigns from then until his election as mayor of Burlington.
The theme of the celebration at which Sanders spoke Monday night was King’s Vision: Humanity Tied in a Garment of Destiny.
Rev. Norman Gamble, the pastor of New Ebenezer Baptist Church, was the keynote speaker.
Gamble addressed many areas in his speech, including educational mandates from Washington that don’t come with funding, inequality of opportunity and the burgeoning opioid crisis afflicting America like a virus. He also said that he attended the same seminary as King and studied under one of King’s professors.