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U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders at The Global Center for Health Innovation

The month of May, 2017 got off to a good start as we rose early on Monday morning and headed to the Global Center for Health Innovation on Lakeside Avenue in Cleveland where where we had breakfast, said hello to friends (old and new), and heard a speech by U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders from Vermont who, as we all know, was a surprisingly prime contender for the democratic party nomination as President of the United States in 2016 winning 23 primaries and caucuses and 43% of the pledged democratic delegates.

This program was part of "The Steven A. Minter Endowed Forum" under the auspices of the City Club of Cleveland. Mr. Minter, who is currently Executive-in-Residence and Fellow with the Center for Nonprofit Policy and Practice with the Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs at Cleveland State University and formerly the President and Executive Director of the Cleveland Foundation, was there with us that morning and we asked him if he planned on speaking to us for a moment. Mr. Minter smiled and said "no' he would not be speaking but he would be "listening."

According to what Mr. Teddy Eisenberg, Content Coordinator at the City Club, told us-this event was a sell-out within 24 hours after tickets became available. All told, approximately 170 passes were sold and there were 80 people on the waiting list.

One of the first people we talked to after we arrived was U.S. Congressperson Marcy Kaptur who was instrumental in arranging for U.S. Senator Sanders to appear there. We also said hello to Cleveland City Councilperson Anthony Brancatelli and asked him if the the Cleveland Polish Constitution Day Parade that took place on Sunday in Slavic Village was successful and he said that it was "fabulous" so we hope to see him at other Polish Constitution celebrations throughout the week and next weekend.

We shared a table with a young man named Nate who is a both a junior and a history major at the University of Cincinnati. Nate told us that he really liked U.S. Senator Sanders and saw him speak at his campus for former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton (the ultimate democratic nominee for the U.S. Presidency) in the Fall of 2016. Nate deduced that U.S. Senator Sanders really "connected" with the students there.

At this morning forum at the Global Center, U.S. Senator Sanders was introduced by our good friend, former Ohio State Senator Nina Turner who cited a recent Harvard-Harris poll that indicated that U.S. Senator Sanders was "our country's most popular active politician across all demographics including people of color."

We are very glad to say that in the course of his speech, U.S. Senator Sanders did touch upon issues pertaining to immigration as he acknowledged that there are 11 million undocumented people living in the United States and he had spoken to quite a few of them in the course of his travels. Accordingly, he believed that they are overwhelmingly honest and hardworking and shouldn't have to live "in the shadows with no legal rights." Thus he contended that it was time to stop "scapegoating" them and that comprehensive immigration reform and a pathway to citizenship were sorely needed. This words brought him a round of applause. During the Q and A, we would have liked to ask him to expand on this statement but unfortunately there were too many people ahead of us in line and we didn't get to ask our question. We did, however, get to shake U.S. Senator Sanders' hand after the program and to ask him if he opposed the Trump Administration's proposed travel bans and he affirmed that he did.

Overall, as we interpreted it, U.S. Senator Sanders' message was one of caution mixed with hope. He cited statistics that showed that our country's wealth, as well as that of the world is being consolidated in the hands of a very few, and thus we are in serious danger of oligarchy; that the wealthy could, through campaign contributions, manipulate our political leaders to do whatever they wanted. Nevertheless, U.S. Senator Sanders was convinced that this trend could be countered via public awareness and grassroots activism.

U.S. Senator Sanders' point-of-view really shown through his responses to two questions that were asked by young people.

The first question came from a young man planning to run for U.S. Congress who wanted the U.S. Senator's advice. U.S. Senator Sanders told him that his best bet was to involve as many people in his campaign as possible and urge them to go out and knock on their neighbors' doors to ask support. He reminded the potential candidate that in his first race for public office he garnered only 2% of the vote and thus the young man was a safe bet to certainly do better than he did; in short, U.S. Senator Sanders wanted him to persevere and not give up even if he did not make it his first time out. 

The second question came from another young man-this time a senior in high school-named Zack who was very concerned about the future and seemed to agree with the U.S. Senator on most issues. Again, he soughtthe U.S. Senator's advice on what he could do to affect the political process.

U.S. Senator Sanders was genuinely heartened by the sincerity of Zack and begin his answer by thanking him for being there. He then replied by saying to Zack, "let me tell you a secret, you are powerful if you believe that you are." He went on to say that "politics is not a basketball game" and pointed to various audience members and said that it's you...and you...and you.

He urged Zack to organize his fellow students and approach their local elected officials with their concerns. Above all, he indicated to Zack that he and his friends should not be discouraged and not be afraid of being called "dreamers" because inevitably the political leaders will recognize the strength that Zack and his friends possess and have to listen.


Michael Patterson

Community Liaison,

Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC