BY LOGYN NORRIS
On the early morning of March 5, SIU Edwardsville became a hotspot for the Democratic public with the arrival of presidential candidate, Bernie Sanders. The Vadalabene Center on SIUE’s campus, which normally holds 5,000 visitors, was invaded with thousands of guests. The enormous crowd was allowed into the building at 8 a.m. and anticipated Sanders’ speech, which started at 10:30. I arrived there at 6:30 a.m., and even then the line was already beginning to wrap around the building. Some camped out, others got there in the wee hours of the morning and many gladly waited in the very back of the line in order to experience this event.
When we were finally able to get in, the security was packed tight, making sure only bodies made it through the detectors. Also, as a heads up, if you wish to take part in a presidential rally, do not bring your vape because you will be asked to leave. The people in front of me were unaware of the vape rule, and they were forced to leave the building. Once I was in, I was able to grab a spot on the floor. I was close enough that only seven people and a fence stood between Candidate Sanders and me. With the doors open, the Vadalabene Center flooded with Sanders supports; the floor was packed, the bleachers were filled and they even had to place TVs in the hallways and outside just so people who did not make it in could still experience this moment.
Waiting for Sanders was an experience unlike anything I have ever done. Many of us were standing for over five hours that day, and some people around me decided to sit down while they were waiting for Sanders inside. When I asked why these people were sitting, one girl remarked, “We just want to hear grandpa talk, and when my real grandpa talks, I sit down.” Even though Sanders himself did not start speaking until 10:30 a.m., the podium began to experience some action at 10. Four Sander supports gave little speeches about their love and support of Sanders and were able to get the crowd riled up for his address. Of course, when Sanders finally came onstage, I was blocked by some seven-foot person and was unable to witness Sanders’ walk to the podium. However, I did not even need to see it because, once he was spotted, the crowd roared with excitement, and that alone got me excited for what was about to happen.
Sanders began his speech by discussing a wide range of issues. He covered the topics of drugs, minimum wage, supporting the “working citizen,” ensuring universal healthcare, providing free tuition for colleges and combating climate change. I have never been interested in politics before, but the experience was absolutely amazing, and it opened my eyes to the issues we are facing as a country. One of my favorite quotes from Sanders was when he was bashing his opponent, Hillary Clinton, and he stated that, “The same shoes you love so much could give you calluses.”
I was not the only Bearcat at this event, though. I went with my group of friends, Tara Coppenbarger, April Chaney and Taylor Anderson. While waiting in line, I was able to spot Carliann Huelsmann, Tyler Jewell, Dylan Comer and many other fellow Bearcats there to cheer on Sanders.
Coppenbarger stated that she was there supporting Sanders because he seemed to be the most levelheaded out of all the candidates. She continued by mentioning that this was the first political experience she has ever had, and it was one she won’t soon forget. Even though we are not diehard “Bern” fans, we were still able to make it there by 6:30 a.m.
Huelsmann waited in line since 5:30 a.m., with only an hour of sleep under her belt. Sanders’ stance on issues is the exact same as hers, and she recalled the experience as being almost better than seeing her favorite band live for the first time. However, since the rally was on a school day, she did run into a slight bump with one of her professors about missing class because the professor is not a fan of Sanders themselves.
Jewell feels strongly about finance reform and healthcare, and his views on these issues match very well with Sanders’. He, too, arrived around 5:30 a.m., and he found it to be the perfect time because he was practically at the front of the line. He is glad he went to the rally, and he found it amazing to witness all of the supporters Sanders had. However, Jewell did recall feeling uncomfortable around a few supports because they were bashing Trump and Clinton in such a harsh manner.
Comer arrived three and a half hours before the start of the rally, and even then he was scared he would not be able to get in because of the length of the line. Luckily, he made it inside and up to the bleachers in order to hear Sanders’ speech. Comer felt “the Bern” because, as he said, “I want myself and my future children to live in the world Bernie is campaigning for.”
Overall, the experience was one I will remember for a lifetime. It was incredible to hear a presidential candidate speak right before our eyes and about issues we feel so deeply about. Whether it is a Trump rally, Clinton rally or even just a town hall meaning, get involved. Our generation may feel like we are not in power, but one day we will be, and we will need to be prepared. Millennials, go vote! Get involved! Let’s build for ourselves a future to believe in.