NEW YORK (AP) — Independent Vermont U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders told graduating college students in New York on Tuesday that instead of giving up in despair over the state of current events the “only rational choice” is to stand up and fight back.
“You do not have the moral right to turn your back on saving this planet and saving future generations,” the former Democratic presidential candidate told the audience at Brooklyn College during remarks that at times sounded more like a campaign speech than a commencement address.
Sanders was raised in Brooklyn and told the crowd he attended Brooklyn College for a year before leaving the city and finishing his college education elsewhere. He said as a youth he remembered a teacher talking about oligarchies, corrupt societies where small groups of people are in control.
“It never occurred to me as a kid in Brooklyn that the United States of America, our great nation, could move in that direction, but that is precisely in my view what is happening today,” Sanders said.
He called out Republican leadership in Congress for wanting to cut social programs such as food stamps and take funds away from Planned Parenthood while giving tax breaks to the wealthiest Americans. He didn’t mention any Republicans by name.
U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue last week defended Republican President Donald Trump’s proposal to cut $191 billion from food stamps over the next 10 years.
Sanders, a frequent critic of Trump, on Tuesday told his audience that the impulse for people to decide the system is rigged and there’s no point to getting involved “is understandable, but it is wrong,” and he urged the graduates to think big.
“If we are prepared to stand together, if we take on greed and selfishness, if we refuse to allow demagogues to divide us up,” he said, “there is no end to what the great people of our nation can accomplish.”
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