Subtitle: Best Darn Speech of 2016.
Jerry Falwell, Jr., required 12,000 Liberty University students to listen to Senator Bernie Sanders make a speech today. A conservative fundagelical university that would yield its floor to a Jewish democratic socialist who could be President deserves more respect than I would initially deign to grant anything created by Jerry Falwell, Sr.
Senator Sanders also deserves respect for thanking his hosts and plowing straight into his disagreements with them:
And let me start off by acknowledging what I think all of you already know. And that is the views that many here at Liberty University have and I, on a number of important issues, are very, very different. I believe in women’s rights and the right of a woman to control her own body.
I believe in gay rights and gay marriage [Senator, Bernie Sanders, address to Liberty University, Lynchburg, Virginia, 2015.09.14].
Having opened with two statements that can shut down conversation in some company, Senator Sanders then develops two major theses:
- Even amidst radical disagreement, we must find common ground for civil discourse.
- We can find that common ground in practicing the Golden Rule rather than submitting to the rule of gold.
Watch Senator Sanders develop these ideas in the video from Washington Post, starting around 48:00, ending at 1:15:50, just about 28 minutes total. Watch Senator Sanders deliver this speech with unflinching sternness, even anger—not anger at the 12,000 citizens before him whom someone failing to heed Sanders’s first thesis would dismiss as enemies, but anger at the injustice described in his thesis. Watch Senator Sanders embody his first thesis—using the religious and moral language of his audience—and call on 12,000 of the least likely Sanders voters in America to embrace his second thesis and join him in fighting economic inequality.
Watch Senator Sanders give what may be the most important speech made by any Presidential candidate this year:
The highlights—good grief! The whole speech is highlights.
Those are my views, and it is no secret. But I came here today, because I believe from the bottom of my heart that it is vitally important for those of us who hold different views to be able to engage in a civil discourse.
Too often in our country — and I think both sides bear responsibility for us — there is too much shouting at each other. There is too much making fun of each other [Sanders, 2015.09.14].
Blogs. Comments. Facebook. Feel the Bern.
Carry on, Senator Sanders:
…[I]t is easy to go out and talk to people who agree with you. I was in Greensboro, North Carolina, just last night. All right. We had 9,000 people out. Mostly they agreed with me. Tonight, we’re going to be in Manassas, and have thousands out and they agree with me. That’s not hard to do. That’s what politicians by and large do.
We go out and we talk to people who agree with us.
But it is harder, but not less important, for us to try and communicate with those who do not agree with us on every issue.
And it is important to see where if possible, and I do believe it is possible, we can find common ground [Sanders, 2015.09.14].
At that point right there, every Independent, every disaffected voter in the country, should vote for Sanders.
For those not yet decided, Sanders invokes Matthew 7:12, the Golden Rule. He invokes Amos 5:24, “But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream.” And then he goes to town on the injustice of economic inequality:
We are living in a time — and I warn all of you if you would, put this in the context of the Bible, not me, in the context of the Bible — we are living in a time where a handful of people have wealth beyond comprehension. And I’m talking about tens of billions of dollars, enough to support their families for thousands of years. With huge yachts, and jet planes and tens of billions. More money than they would ever know what to do with.
But at that very same moment, there are millions of people in our country, let alone the rest of the world, who are struggling to feed their families. They are struggling to put a roof over their heads, and some of them are sleeping out on the streets. They are struggling to find money in order to go to a doctor when they are sick.
Now, when we talk about morality, and when we talk about justice, we have to, in my view, understand that there is no justice when so few have so much and so many have so little [Sanders, 2015.09.14].
Sanders appeals to intellect and feeling, morality and patriotism:
Now you have got to think about it. You have to think about it and you have to feel it in your guts. Are you content? Do you think it’s moral when 20 percent of the children in this country, the wealthiest country in the history of the world, are living in poverty? Do you think it is acceptable that 40 percent of African American children are living in poverty?
In my view, there is no justice, and morality suffers when in our wealthy country, millions of children go to bed hungry. That is not morality and that is not in my view … what America should be about [Sanders, 2015.09.14].
Sanders decries the concentration of wealth at the top amidst widespread poverty. He busts our chops for being the only developed country that doesn’t guarantee health care as a right. He then looks these children of family values in the eye and makes the moral case for paid family leave:
You know, there is a lot of talk in this country from politicians about family values. You have all heard that. Well, let me tell you about a family value.
In my view, there is no justice when low income and working class mothers are forced to separate from their babies one or two weeks after birth and go back to work because they need the money that their jobs provide. Now I know everybody here — we all are, maybe in different ways, but all of us believe in family values.
Jane and I have four kids. We have seven beautiful grandchildren. We believe in family values. But it is not a family value when all of you know that the most important moments and time of a human being’s life is the first weeks and months after that baby is born. That is the moment when mothers bonds with the baby; gets to love and know her baby — dad is there as well. That is what a family is about. And those of you — at least those of you who are parents — more parents back here than there I suspect. You know what an unforgettable moment that is. What an important moment that is. And I want you to think, whether you believe it is a family value, that the United States of America is the only — only — major country on earth that does not provide paid family and medical leave.
Now in English, what that means is that all over the world when a woman has her baby she is guaranteed the right because society understands how important that moment is. She is guaranteed the right to stay home and get income in order to nurture her baby. And that is why I believe when we talk about family values that the United States government must provide at least 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave [Sanders, 2015.09.14].
And then he goes for the Pope. Bernie Sanders walks into the biggest Protestant evangelical university in America and tells the student body to listen to Pope Francis:
I agree with Pope Francis when he says, and I quote, “The current financial crisis originated in a profound human crisis, the denial of the primacy of the human person,” and this is what he writes: “We have created new idols. The worship of the ancient golden calf has returned in a new and ruthless guise in the idolatry of money and the dictatorship of an impersonal economy lacking a truly human purpose,” end of quote.
And the pope also writes, quote, “There is a need for financial reform along ethical lines that would produce in its turn an economic reform to benefit everyone. Money has to serve, not to rule,” end of quote.
Now those are pretty profound words, which I hope we will all think about. In the pope’s view, and I agree with him, we are living in a nation and in a world, and the Bible speaks to this issue, in a nation and in a world which worships not love of brothers and sisters, not love of the poor and the sick, but worships the acquisition of money and great wealth. I do not believe that is the country we should be living in.
Money and wealth should serve the people. The people should not have to serve money and wealth [Sanders, 2015.09.14].
As I said, it’s all highlights. It’s just that good of a speech, right down to concluding with concise summaries of thesis #1:
Throughout human history, there has been endless discussion. It is part of who we are as human beings, people who think and ask questions, endless discussion and debate about the meaning of justice and about the meaning of morality. And I know that here at Liberty University, those are the kinds of discussions you have every day, and those are the kinds of discussions you should be having and the kinds of discussions we should be having all over America [Sanders, 2015.09.14].
…and thesis #2:
I would hope, and I conclude with this thought, I would hope very much that as part of that discussion and part of that learning process, some of you will conclude that if we are honest in striving to be a moral and just society, it is imperative that we have the courage to stand with the poor, to stand with working people and when necessary, take on very powerful and wealthy people whose greed, in my view, is doing this country enormous harm [Sanders, 2015.09.14].
Heck of a speech! Heck of a speech!
Liberty University deserves our respect for inviting Senator Bernie Sanders to speak to their students. Senator Sanders deserves our respect and our attention for taking the stage in the lions’ den and speaking about the common ground all Americans should find in fighting economic injustice. This speech is the conversation our nation needs. It is the most important speech of the campaign so far, because of what Sanders says, how he says it, and where he says it.