(An excerpt follows from the keynote speech at the kickoff rally for Bernie Sanders on July 29 at the Grange in small town Sebastopol, attended by 180 people.
Half a dozen other house gatherings occurred elsewhere in Sonoma County, Northern California, with the one in Graton village drawing 55 people. Over 3,000 such gatherings for Bernie happened that night, drawing over 100,000 people.)
In l961 Republican President and General Dwight D. Eisenhower warned in his historic Farewell Address against the rise of what he described as the “military-industrial complex.”
At that time I was a high school student born into the Southern fighting family that gave its name to Ft. Bliss, Texas. I was later commissioned an officer in the U.S. Army. My father was Air Force, my brother Marine, and my sister married Coast Guard.
A major reason that I support Bernie Sanders to be President of the United States is that he voted against the American War on Iraq. He heeded President Eisenhower’s warning.
In a recent letter to supporters Bernie pledged that he would “vigorously oppose an endless war in the Middle East.” This commitment alone is enough reason to vote your conscience.
Bernie added, “The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have cost us thousands of lives and trillions of dollars. The U.S. spends more on the military than the next 9 biggest-spending countries combined.”
The U.S. lost its wars against Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan—all small, weak nations. Now it’s threatening Iran and Pakistan, both large nations with powerful militaries. The U.S. also rattles its sabers against Russia and China.
Back in the sixties my girl friend, Marilyn Yeo, took me to a rally that Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke at. He stirred me to eventually resign my military commission. I joined the peace movement.
The last National Democratic Convention that I attended was in Chicago, l968, while still in the army. I was one of the many activists who protested the American War on Vietnam. Many of us were jailed. We were eventually found innocent, since we merely exercised our Constitutional rights, which are rapidly disappearing.
Bernie has a long history of opposing war and advocating peace. This is not something that his rival Hillary the Hawk can claim.
In his email a few days ago Bernie wrote, “This campaign is about a grassroots movement of Americans standing up and saying: ‘Enough is enough!’ This country and our government belong to all of us, not just a handful of billionaires.
THE RIGHT TO A ROOF MARCH
Let me use an example of the kinds of local grass roots direct actions that Bernie would support. As we gather here, the Right to a Roof March is happening in the streets of the mainly Latino community of Roseland nearby in Santa Rosa.
Tenants, workers, and allies from around the county are marching. They would find an ally in Bernie. “Sonoma County is becoming a playground for the rich,” the marchers contend.
Working people and immigrants are being pushed aside. The marchers demand tenant protections, like rent stabilization and just cause eviction policies. They demand shared prosperity for all, not just those who can pay to play.
“Jobs, Jobs, Jobs” is at the top of Bernie’s agenda. The official unemployment figures are 5.4%. He writes, “Real unemployment is almost 11%. Real unemployment for white & Hispanic youth is over 30%, while for African-American youth it is over 50%.”
“Raising Wages” is part of the solution. Bernie writes that the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 needs to be doubled to $15 an hour.
Bernie supports pay equity for women. “There is no rational reasons why women should be earning 78 cents on the dollar compared to men who perform the same work.”
When I moved to the Sebastopol countryside 24 years ago, I bought rural property at a reasonable rate, and transformed it into a working farm. Today it is even hard to find a place to live here, especially for younger people, in towns such as Healdsburg, Sebastopol, and Sonoma.
That is why in-the-streets actions such as The Right to a Roof March deserve our support. If I were not here, I would be there.
We have engaged in such direct action against Big Wine, especially against bad apples such as Paul Hobbs. We dogged him, turned him in for environmental violations, and forced him to pay a $100,000 settlement with the county. We picketed one of his tastings, which caused him to shut it down.
THE HUGE COLLEGE STUDENT DEBT
I apologize to my college students for the world that my generation has left them. The debt of college students today is greater than the entire credit card debt in America.
When many students graduate, they cannot find jobs and have to move back with their parents, with a debt of 20, 30 or more thousands of dollars.
“College for All” Bernie wrote his supporters last week. “The U.S. must join Germany and many other countries in understanding that investing in our young people’s education is investing in the future of our nation.”
He has introduced legislation to make tuition in public colleges and universities free, as well as substantially lowering interest rates on student loans.
“The U.S. once led the world in terms of the percentage of our young people who had college degrees,” writes Bernie. “Today, in a highly competitive global economy, we are now in 12th place. Hundreds of thousands of bright young people have given up the dream of higher education.”
Why have we gotten into this mess? “Corporate greed is rampant,” Bernie writes. “The very rich keep growing richer, while everyone else grows poorer. 45 million Americans live in poverty.”
“Meanwhile 99% of all new income goes to the top 1%. The top one-tenth of 1% own almost as much wealth as the bottom 90%. The richest 400 Americans own over $2.2 trillion, more than the bottom 150 million Americans combined.”
Last night in this Grange Hall we had our monthly free potluck. I encouraged my Granger friends to vote for Bernie. “He doesn’t have a chance” some responded. They must not be reading news reports and columnists, such as in the New York Times and Los Angeles Times.
On July 11 the local daily Press Democrat published a Los Angeles Times Doyle McManus’ column “How Far Can Sanders Really Go?” It reports on “2500 people in Council Bluffs, Iowa, 7,500 in Portland, Maine, 10,000 in Madison, Iowa.”
Those are all small towns. At that time Bernie had already raised $15 million for his campaign, most in small amounts, averaging $35 a person. McManus concludes his column by writing, “His speech at the Democratic National Convention will be worth staying up for.”
Bernie is stirring Americans across the U.S. The July 14 New York Times notes that “Sanders has surged in the polls against Hillary Clinton.” Why? Americans “want a fighter,” Bernie contends. The July 25 New York Times article adds that Bernie “draws large crowds on the campaign trail.”
BERNIE’S MAIN ISSUES
Following are 11 of the main issues that Bernie addresses.
1. Climate change. Bernie’s writes. “If we do not act boldly on climate change, the planet we leave to our grandchildren may be uninhabitable.?? We must transform our energy system away from fossil fuels And into energy efficiency and sustainable energies.”
2. “Our infrastructure—roads, bridges, rail, airports, water system, wastewater plants, levees, dams—is crumbling.”
3. “Our tax system is wildly unfair, rigged to benefit the very rich.”
4. “Growing poverty among seniors.”
5. “Reforming Wall Street. In my view, if a bank is too big to fail, it is too big to exist.”
6. Campaign finance reform.
7. Health care for all. “The U.S. remains the only major country on earth that does not guarantee health care for all as a right.”
8. Protecting our most vulnerable.
9. Reform our criminal justice system, end racial profiling, and implement a comprehensive immigration reform.
10. Dismantle structural racism. “We have more people locked up in jail than any other country on earth.
11. Label GMO foods.
OUR BROKEN CORPORATE FOOD SYSTEM
I have farmed for the last 24 years and want to say why this farmer supports Bernie. The U.S. has a factory farm system run by corporations. The largest super-market in America is Wal-Mart. They get many of their products from China.
Bernie writes, “It is absurd that the top one-tenth of 1% own almost as much wealth as the bottom 90%, and that one family (the Waltons of Walmart) has more wealth than the bottom 130 million Americans.??”
As someone who used to have a flock of 80 chickens on my small farm, a letter to the Press Democrat editor published July 28 under the headline “factory farming” struck me.
“The U.S. egg industry is reeling from a colossal outbreak of avian flu.
48 millions birds, accounting for 11 percent of the nation’s egg-laying hens, have been slaughtered for fear of infection during the past few months. The effects are far-reaching.”
“The horrendous conditions in today’s factory farms make egg and chicken production extremely vulnerable to disease outbreaks, and therefore, not sustainable.”
Big Ag in Sonoma County means the Wine Empire. They run this county. Groups such as Preserve Rural Sonoma County and the Four County Network have been challenging them in recent months.
Thanks for coming this evening. You may be a Democrat, an independent, a green, a libertarian, radical, liberal, or progressive. Or even an old-fashioned Eisenhower Republican, like I was.
I appeal to you–vote for the American populist from Vermont—Bernie Sanders.