Sanders, an independent from Vermont who is seeking the 2020 Democratic nomination, spoke to a crowd of around 13,000 supporters at Brooklyn College, according to a campaign estimate, mentioning his experiences growing up and contrasting his background with Trump.
“Thank you for being part of a campaign which is not only going to win the Democratic nomination, which is not only going to defeat Donald Trump, the most dangerous president in modern American history,” Sanders said to the supporters. “I want to welcome you to a campaign which says, loudly and clearly, that the underlying principles of our government will not be greed, hatred and lies. It will not be racism, sexism, xenophobia, homophobia and religious bigotry.”
On Feb. 19, he announced his candidacy in a video, joining a crowded field of announced candidates and possible contenders.
Besides criticizing Trump, he repeated his progressive stand.
“The principles of our government will be based on justice: economic justice, social justice, racial justice and environmental justice,” he said.
That includes a $15 minimum wage, a “Medicare for all” single-payer healthcare program, tuition-free public colleges and combating climate change with renewable energy.
“Whether you like it or not, the United States will join every other major country on earth and guarantee healthcare to all people as a right,” he said. “All Americans are entitled to go to the doctor when they’re sick and not go bankrupt after staying in the hospital … We will pass a Medicare for all single-payer program.”
During his speech, he related personal experiences.
“My experience as a child living in a family that struggled economically, powerfully influenced my life and my values,” Sanders said. “I know where I came from, and that is something I will never forget. Unlike Donald Trump, who shut down the government and left 800,000 federal employees without income to pay the bills, I know what it’s like to be in a family that lives paycheck to paycheck.”
Sanders, 77, described living in Flatbush, not far from Brooklyn where he shared a 3 1/2-room, rent-controlled apartment with his parents and brother.
“I know where I came from!” he howled, a hint of exuberance in his voice. “And that is something I will never forget.”
He mentioned his Jewish father’s escape from Europe.
“I learned a great deal about immigration as a child because my father came from Poland at the age of 17, without a nickel in his pocket. Without knowing one word of English,” Sanders said. “He came to the U.S. to escape the crushing poverty that existed in his community, and to escape widespread anti-Semitism. And it was a good thing that he came to this country, because virtually his entire family [in Europe] was wiped out by Hitler and Nazi barbarism.”
He contrasted making do with a modest allowance of 25 cents a week compared with Trump, who was given a $200,000 allowance every year beginning at the age of 3.
“I did not have a mom and dad who gave me millions of dollars to build luxury skyscrapers and casinos and country clubs,” Sanders said.
“I did not come from a family of privilege that prepared me to entertain people on television by telling workers, ‘You’re fired,'” Sanders said, using Trump’s tagline from The Apprentice. “I came from a family who knew all too well the frightening power employers can have over everyday workers.”