“Power to the People,” blared overhead as 14,000 people with “Feel the Bern” emblazoned on their chests packed Salt Lake City’s This is the Place Heritage Park Friday afternoon.
Presidential candidate and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders used the rally as an opportunity to emphasize the focus of his unique, people-centered campaign.
“What this campaign is about, and what I am urging the American people to do, is to think outside of the box, outside of the status quo, outside of the options that the media thinks you have,” Sanders said.
Sanders noted that his campaign had little recognition 10 months ago. Now, he is one of the frontrunners in national polls. He said this is because his campaign is focused on listening to the entire country and its problems instead of focusing on wealthy donors.
He said his campaign is listening to the youth, African American, Latino, Native American, senior and disabled veteran communities in order to pinpoint the real changes that need to be made in the country.
The crowd cheered as he called for reforms in campaign financing, education, criminal justice, health care, the environment and wealth distribution.
Sanders said many people find his ideas radical; he believes they are very sensible. He justified his reform plans by explaining they would be economically supported by imposing taxes on Wall Street and multinational corporations.
His desire to address these real problems, however, has led to something profound. “We’re doing something very radical in American politics,” Sanders said. “We’re telling the truth.”
This “radicalism” is the reason many supporters went to the rally.
Salt Lake City residents Alex Anderson, 26, and Piper Shipman, 23, are roommates both working and trying to finish their university education. They said that even though they have good jobs, paying for school is still difficult. Sanders’ call for free public universities could help them finish school, they said, and his health care reforms could be beneficial as they pursue careers in the medical field.
Neither Anderson nor Shipman have voted before, but they decided to register in support of Sanders’ cause. “He’s a genuine person. He’s working for the good of the people instead of himself,” Anderson said.
Natalia Abril, a 20-year-old student at the University of Utah, supports Sanders for similar reasons.
“He (strives for) a sense of equality,” Abril said. “He’s speaking for people who don’t normally speak for themselves.”
Utah residents were also impressed with the symbolism of the rally’s location. This is the Place Heritage Park is where Brigham Young first saw the Salt Lake Valley, and supporters explained that Sanders is also a sort of visionary.
Warner Woodworth, emeritus professor at the BYU Marriott School of Business, went further to compare Sanders to Young, saying both are anti-establishment and for the people.
Sanders took the time to say that while he is for the people, Donald Trump is definitely not. He said that the American people will not elect Trump because he “lies all the time” and divides the nation.
“Perhaps most importantly what the American people know is what every major religion has taught us: love trumps hatred,” Sanders said.
Sanders and his campaign team urged Utahns to participate in Utah’s upcoming caucuses to help bring about the change they believe is necessary for the country – a change Sanders said only he can bring.
“Everybody here knows real change never comes about from the top on down,” Sanders said. “It comes about from the bottom on up.”