Bernie Sanders in Naperville: 'Get involved yourself'
Sen. Bernie Sanders knows his supporters are disappointed with the results of the presidential election, but Friday night he encouraged more than 3,000 of them in Naperville to stay hopeful and move forward.
"I ask all of you, in whatever capacity you're comfortable with, get involved," he said during a stop on his book tour at North Central College. "There are people in this room who can, who should be thinking about running for the school board, for city council, for state legislator."
"Democracy is not a spectator sport," he said. "Don't look around and say, 'Why isn't he doing it, why isn't she doing it?' Get involved yourself."
The event was held by Anderson's Bookshops to promote Sanders' new book, "Our Revolution," which details his experience on the campaign trail as a candidate for the U.S. presidency and his stance on economic, environmental and social issues.
"You could sense the feeling in the room that this is a man who inspires them and wants to get them engaged in whatever world they're in," said bookshop owner Becky Anderson. "Looking out at this audience, there were so many young people here, and that's the future. If we can get this generation engaged and involved in our communities, just doing something for the common good, we'll all be better."
North Central College spokeswoman Melissa Ramirez Cooper said an estimated 400 North Central students were able to attend the sold-out public event.
"As an academic institution, we welcome freedom of speech, we welcome civic discourse, and this is just another opportunity for us to exercise that," she said.
Many supporters sported shirts, pins and hats adorned with Sanders' face and name. Nicole Harmon, a high school senior from Downers Grove, came to the event hoping she would get one of the several hundred random copies of the book signed by Sanders.
Harmon's eyes widened when she flipped a few pages in and saw his signature printed neatly in blue. She jumped with joy and gave her friend a high-five.
"I was actually looking for it as a sign to go into political science myself," she said with a smile. "Now I know what I'm going to major in!"
Sanders told his supporters they must understand that while there are divides among Americans, they are not as deep as people think. He said many Republicans agree with Democrats on issues like making college more affordable, pay equity for women and raising the minimum wage to a living wage.
President-elect Donald Trump won the election, Sanders said, in part because he tapped into the anger that many Americans have about the U.S. economy.
"He understood and spoke about the pain and the despair that tens of millions of Americans are feeling right now," he said. "They are struggling and no one is paying attention to them."
Sanders said Democrats need to stop ignoring the needs of working people, while ensuring that morality remains paramount over greed.
"I want the Democratic Party to open its doors to working people and young people, to welcome their ideas and energy," he said, adding that he is frustrated with modern politics being focused more on scandal and personalities than on engaging people in conversations about serious issues.
Sanders maintained his strong disagreement with Trump's stance on climate change and said he would fight against bigotry, racism, sexism and xenophobia.
"In a Democratic society, people can and should have disagreements," he said. "Debate is good. But we have, as a nation, traveled too far over the past 200 and plus years trying to fight against all forms of discrimination."
Anderson asked Sanders a few questions posed by people in the audience, several of whom mentioned the sadness and hopeless they have felt since the election.
Sanders emphasized in his answers that his supporters "don't have the privilege of giving up or living in despair."
"This is not about you," he said. "It's about your kids and the future of this country. If you say I've given up hope you're being a little bit selfish. Brave people don't run away from a fire."
He added that while he can't lay out step by step what people need to do to move forward, he knows it's most important that people work together, even with people they don't think they have anything in common with.
"What I do know is if people come together ... if we stand together and focus on the real issues facing this country, there is nothing that will defeat us," he said.