By Yezdyar “Yez” Kaoosji
The Fresno City College Jazz Band entertained a “yuuge” crowd of more than 3,000 enthusiastic supporters as they got ready to welcome Sen. Bernie Sanders (D–Vt.). They waited patiently for Sanders to enjoy the music on the lush lawns surrounding the Veterans’ Peace Memorial Monument at Fresno City College on Nov. 15.
Alex Ramos-O’Casey, the Central Valley field director for the campaign, kicked off the evening with an exciting introduction. She was followed by Pedro Hernandez, a high school teacher and environmental activist, and Jewel Hurtado, a Kingsburg City Council member, who addressed prime issues affecting the Central Valley.
After a presentation by Amy Arlund, RN, of National Nurses United, Sanders strode briskly on stage with his wife Jane O’Meara Sanders. He opened his speech with, “Let me begin by presenting to you the next First Lady of the United States!” The crowd burst into cheers of “Bernie! Bernie! Bernie!” waving the new Green New Deal posters.
Sanders spoke in his usual emphatic tone, calling on Central Californians to continue to enrich the movement toward an America that cares for its people. He highlighted the major themes from his 31 issue plans posted on www.berniesanders.com/issues.
He addressed climate change, free public college education and cancelling student debt, legalizing cannabis and expunging the criminal records of those charged with marijuana possession. He also stressed the need to combat racism, sexism, bigotry, rising income and wealth inequality and the suppression of votes at elections, and the need to support fair and just immigration policies as part of his political movement.
Cheers broke out again when Sanders identified the need to succeed in California to win the Democratic Party nomination, which he had lost marginally in the 2016 race. “Moaning, groaning and complaining will not achieve anything,” he said as he called on young people, the most progressive demographic group in America, to step up and lead the movement.
Sanders drew another thunderous response when he declared that, “We need to fight the Republicans who keep insisting that government should not intervene in the lives of its citizens, although the GOP has no hesitation in curtailing the personal rights of women to control their bodies!”
Calling for a society and a government that treats everyone with dignity, whatever the race, ethnicity, color, gender, sexual identification, language or country of origin of a person, he said, “Real change does not happen from the top to the bottom, but from the bottom to the top!”
The broad range of support for Sanders was obvious. From millennials to octogenarians, the people in the audience had their personal reasons to stand patiently for hours for the candidate they want to pick as President in 2020.
Fresno resident and longtime progressive activist Philip Traynor, who had marched with Cesar Chavez and worked to set up his health centers in Mexico and the California Central Valley said, “I am here to support Bernie because of his leadership and commitment to focus on climate change.
“This issue may not impact me personally because I am in my 80s, but it will impact the lives of my children and grandchildren significantly. I am energized to support Bernie once again in 2020 because he has made the Green New Deal a centerpiece of his campaign for President.”
Alexander Orozco, a member of the Democratic Socialists of America Fresno chapter, and a political science and Spanish junior at UC Berkeley, said, “I support Bernie because he has the most progressive platform. He has shown his consistent willingness to fight for people’s issues. Still, as a democratic-socialist, Bernie understands the dysfunction brought on by the capitalist system and is boldly leading a mass movement to change the country.”
Bev Fitzpatrick, a retired teacher and progressive activist, responded, “I began to support Bernie after hearing him speak at a small ‘Run Bernie, Run!’ gathering in the Los Angeles area when he was still deciding whether to enter the 2016 Presidential campaign.
“Today, I continue to support Bernie as so many people here because the issues he talks about are our issues—healthcare, wealth and income inequality, student debt, climate change, etc. Bernie knows what matters and what doesn’t! I am confident that Bernie can beat Trump, despite being ignored by the mainstream media!”
Kim Williams said that “Bernie is the only candidate to have prioritized and invested in the Central Valley, and I know he’ll show up in every way that counts as President.”
Sen. Bernie Sanders closed his speech by reminding everyone that “No President can do anything alone.” He called on Americans to support him and engage in the political process seriously. “I invite you to join the political revolution to help us defeat Trump and help us transform this country, so we have an economy and a government that works for all of us, not just the wealthy campaign contributors! Thank you.”
Yezdyar “Yez” Kaoosji writes an occasional column “Progressive Voice” for the Community Alliance newspaper. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.