Bernie Sanders rally, Gainesville, Florida, March 10, 2016 (Watch the video at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BUiV7Bbiz7I)
Videos of other Bernie Sanders speeches are available at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCpVhqCnd6iz3gfJUuGM1r7g
TRANSCRIPT: You are the future of our nation! And it is...You like the hat, huh?...All right.
You are the future of our country and you have the RIGHT, the democratic right, to help SHAPE the future of this country!
Now, I know that Florida is big football country, right? But unless you are out on the playing field, football is a spectator sport. Democracy is NOT a spectator sport!
And, if we are going to change this nation, we have got to do it together—you and ALL Americans must be involved in the political process! Now, here's the truth, and what this campaign is about is telling the truth! And the truth is that there are people in Washington, and in corporate America, who do not want you to be voting, they do not want you to participate in the political process. They want you to think that politics is dumb, somebody else should do it. What we are fighting for right now is to determine whether it is the people of this country, all of us, who determine our future, or a handful of wealthy campaign contributors.
Let me, very briefly, tell you some things that other candidates for president will not. Number one, we have today a corrupt campaign finance system which is undermining American democracy! What democracy is supposed to be about is one person, one vote, not billionaires buying elections! Democracy is not about the Koch brothers and other billionaires spending hundreds of millions of dollars to elect candidates who represent the wealthy and the powerful. That’s not democracy! That is oligarchy! And, together, we’re gonna change that!
I want anybody here today, whether you’re progressive, conservative, moderate, to feel that you can run for office, if that’s what you want to do, without begging wealthy people for campaign contributions.
Second of all, and not unrelated to a corrupt campaign finance system is the fact that we have a rigged economy! Now, what does that mean. What it means is that in Florida and Vermont, and all over this country, you’ve got millions of people who are working longer hours for lower wages. You got 47 million people living in poverty. You got Mom working, Dad working, many of you are working, and yet, 58 percent of all new income is going to the top one percent!
What a rigged economy is about is that the United States today has more income and wealth inequality than any other major country on Earth! And it is worse today than at any time since 1928! What a rigged economy means, and listen to this: the top one-tenth of one percent now owns almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent. What a rigged economy is about is that the wealthiest 20 people in America now own more wealth than the bottom HALF of Americans—150 million people. What a rigged economy means, that unless we turn this economy around your generation will likely have a lower standard of living than your parents! We have got...Now, I know you love your parents. I know they are paying to send you here to school, but what the American dream is about, it’s always been about, it’s been about for my family. My father came to this country without a nickel in his pocket, never made any money. His dream was that his kids could do better than he. That’s the American dream. I want your kids to do better than you, and I want you to do better than your parents. I want to see the American dream go forward, not backwards!
And here's another truth. It's a harsh truth, but what this campaign is about is talking about the realities of America, because we cannot go forward unless we lay the real issues on the table. By and large, the media will not talk about the real issues. And you and I have to.
And here's another real issue: In America today we have a broken criminal justice system. Now I want you all to think about this. And what this campaign is about is thinking outside of the box. Don't think status quo! Think about what really goes on and where we can go as a nation, if we are prepared to stand up and fight.
Now what a broken criminal justice system means is that today we have, in America, more people in jail than any other country on Earth. We are spending 80 billion dollars a year to lock Americans up and, disproportionately, the people in jail are African American, Latino, and Native American.
Now, right now, just as an example, real unemployment for young people between 17 and 20 who graduated high school is 33 percent if they are white, 36 percent if they are Latino, 51 percent if they are African-American.
Do you want a radical idea? We are going to invest in jobs and education, not jails and incarceration! I want our young people to be working or studying, not seeing their lives destroyed in jail! And when we talk about criminal justice reform, we gotta be talking about reforming police departments all over this country. Now I was a mayor for eight years and I worked closely with police, and the vast majority of police are honest, hard-working, and they have an enormously difficult job. But all of us, whether we are black, or white, or Latino, are tired of seeing videos on TV when unarmed people are being killed by police. And that is why a police officer who breaks the law—like any public official—must be held accountable.
We need to end the militarization of police departments all over this country. Police departments should not look like occupying armies; they should be part of the community they serve. We need to make police departments look like the diversity of the communities they serve. We need to understand, when we talk about criminal justice reform, that drug addiction, alcohol, substance abuse, these are not criminal issues—they are mental health issues.
And we need to fundamentally rethink the war on drugs. Now, under the Federal Controlled Substance Act, marijuana and heroin are considered Schedule 1 drugs. I think that is dumb. All of you know—and I pray that you do know—that heroin is a killer drug, and in my state, and all over this country, we are seeing an epidemic of drug overdose on heroin and opiates, and I hope every one of you stays away from those killer drugs. But the truth is, you can argue the pluses and minuses of marijuana, but nobody thinks that marijuana is equivalent to heroin. And that is why I have introduced legislation to take marijuana out of the Federal Controlled Substance Act. Millions of Americans now have police records because of possession of marijuana and lives have been ruined. Now states make the decisions, not the federal government, regarding legalization of marijuana, but possession should not be a federal crime.
And when you look at the issue of marijuana, it becomes...it comes laden with racial overtones, because it turns out that whites and blacks do marijuana at about the same rate, but blacks are four times more likely to be arrested than whites. That's wrong!
Now this campaign has been doing really well in the last number of months. When we began, when we began, we were at about 3 percent in the polls. We were about 60, 70 points behind Secretary Clinton. As of today, we have already won nine states! And we just pulled off a major upset in Michigan the other day. And on Tuesday, we've got five states coming up, including Florida. If you guys come out to vote, we are going to pull off an upset here, as well.
Now, this campaign has been doing well because we are listening to the American people, and not just wealthy campaign contributors. And what the American people are telling us, as we go around the country, we talk to workers. is that workers can not make it on 9 or 10 bucks an hour. They believe, and I believe, that the federal minimum wage of seven dollars and twenty-five cents an hour is a starvation wage. It's gotta be raised to a living wage. And that living wage should be 15 dollars an hour!
And when we talk about equitable wages, I hope every man here today will stand with the women in the fight for pay equity for women workers. Women in America should not be making 79 cents on the dollar compared to men! That is old-fashioned sexism! We are gonna change that!
This campaign is listening to the men and women who have put their lives on the line to defend us: veterans who demand decent health care and decent benefits, and we're gonna give it to them.
This campaign is listening to young people. What I hear from young people is, why is it that you've got to leave school, leave college, leave graduate school, 50 thousand or 100 thousand dollars in debt? Throughout our lives, people say “Get all of the education you can. It's good for you. It's good for your country.” And that is right!
People should not be punished for getting the education that they need. They should be rewarded! Today in America, we have hundreds of thousands of bright young people who want to go to college, who are qualified to go to college, but can't go to college for one reason. And that reason is their families lack the income. That is wrong!
Now, fifty years ago when we talked about public education, it was great to be talking about free education, first grade to twelfth grade. The world has changed! Today, a college degree, in many respects, is equivalent to what a high school degree was fifty years ago. And that is why, I believe, that when we talk about public education today, we've gotta be talking about making public colleges and universities tuition-free. We've got to be talking about substantially reducing student debt.
Now people say to me, “Well, Bernie that's a great idea, but it's expensive.” They are right. It is expensive. But I'll tell you how we are going to pay for it. When the greed and recklessness and illegal behavior on Wall Street helped destroy this economy, Congress bailed them out. I believe that we should impose a tax on Wall Street speculation. It's Wall Street's turn to help the middle class today!
This campaign is listening to our brothers and sisters in the Latino community. And what they are saying is they are tired of living in the shadows, living in fear. They want comprehensive immigration reform and a path toward citizenship. And they are right! That's what I will fight for as president. And if Congress does not do its job and pass comprehensive immigration reform, we are going to use the executive powers of the president to do everything we can.
Now I want to mention to you, just briefly, some of the differences in this campaign between Secretary Clinton and myself. Number one, Secretary Clinton thinks that the appropriate way to raise money is to have a super PAC and raise 15 million dollars from Wall Street. Raise millions from the fossil fuel industry. And millions more from the drug companies. Well, that's not the way we raise money in our campaign. Our campaign, up till now, unbelievably, has received over 5 million individual campaign contributions, not from the fossil fuel industry but from ordinary Americans. Anybody here know what our average contribution is? [Audience: 27 dollars!] Twenty-seven dollars!
[16:37]: To paraphrase Abe Lincoln at Gettysburg, this a campaign of the people, by the people, and for the people! As Congresswoman Gabbard just told you a moment ago, Secretary Clinton and I have some very different points of view regarding foreign policy. The most important foreign policy decision made in the modern history of this country was the war in Iraq. I listened to what President Bush and Vice President Cheney and all the rest had to say on that war. I believe they were not telling the truth. I voted against that disastrous war!
Secretary Clinton heard the same evidence. She voted for the war!
Thirdly, when you talk about the decline of the American middle class has a lot to do with trade policies. I believe that corporate America has gotta start investing in this country, not just in China and low-wage countries all over the world. I have opposed every one of these disastrous trade agreements, which have cost us millions of decent-paying jobs. Secretary Clinton has supported almost all of them. That's a real difference!
Now, you know, the American people are angry. And they have reason to be angry. They are working longer hours for lower wages. They are seeing almost all new income and wealth going to the top one percent. What this campaign is about is creating an economy that works for all of us, not just the people on top! This campaign is about taking on Wall Street and the big-money interests. This campaign is about understanding that climate change is real, that climate change is caused by human activity, and that climate change is already causing massive problems in this country and around the world.
Now, we have a moral responsibility, a moral responsibility to future generations, to have the courage to take on the fossil fuel industry and transform our energy system. This state of Florida can help lead the country in solar power! We can move toward wind and other sustainable technologies.
Now let me connect some dots here and show you what a corrupt campaign finance system is. There is almost no Republican, and certainly no Republican candidates for president, who have the guts to come before you and tell you exactly what the scientific community is saying. And the reason that they do not have the courage to tell you that climate change is real, and caused by human activity, has to do with the corrupt campaign finance system. Because if they told you the truth about climate change, on that day they would lose their campaign contributions from the Koch brothers and the fossil fuel industry.
And I say to those Republicans, worry more about the future of this planet than your damn campaign contributions!
Now, a lot of Republicans, they go campaigning around the country and they talk about family values. I want everybody here to be crystal clear what they mean by family values. And what they mean is that no woman here today, no woman in Florida, no woman in the United States, according to their family values, should have the right to control her own body. I disagree!
What they mean by family values is that our gay brothers and sisters should not have the right to get married. I disagree!
When I talk about family values, they are very different values than Republican values. My values are ending the international disgrace of the United States being the only major country on Earth not to guarantee paid family and medical leave. I don't want to see women in Florida, giving birth today, having to go back to work in a week or two, separating themselves from their baby because they don't have the income to stay home. That's wrong!
Now, I have been criticized for thinking too big. Well, I plead guilty! I think this is a great country and we can do a lot better than we are doing now!
My Republican colleagues believe that at a time when millions of seniors, and many in Florida, are trying to get by on eleven, twelve thousand dollars a year Social Security, they believe we should cut Social Security benefits! Well, I've got some bad news for them. Not only are we not going to cut Social Security benefits, we are gonna raise Social Security benefits!
A senior citizen, a disabled vet, can’t make it on twelve, eleven, thirteen thousand dollars a year. A great nation is judged not by how many millionaires and billionaires we have, but how we treat the weakest and most vulnerable people amongst us. We will not turn our backs on America's seniors; we’re gonna stand up for them!
Every major nation on Earth—the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, Holland, Scandinavia, Canada, you name it—every one of these countries manages to provide health care to ALL of their people. Now I have been criticized for saying this, so let me say it again. I don't want any misunderstanding. I believe that health care is a RIGHT of ALL people, not a privilege! The Affordable Care Act, and I am on the committee that helped write it, has done a lot of good things. But we can do better!
Today 29 million people have no health insurance. Many others are underinsured with high deductibles and high co-payments, and we are being ripped off by the pharmaceutical industry that charges us the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs. And then, to add insult to injury, we end up paying much, much more per capita than do the people of any other country for health care. That is why I believe we must move to a Medicare for All health care system.
Now let me tell you something that no other candidate for president will tell you, and that is that no president, not Bernie Sanders or anybody else, can do what has to be done for the working families and the middle class of this country alone. Can't be done! And the reason for that, and I hope you all understand this, is that the power of Wall Street, which has endless supplies of money, the power of corporate America, the power of the corporate media, the power of wealthy campaign contributors. is so great that no president alone can stand up to them. That's the truth.
The only way that we bring about real change in this country is the way that change has always occurred in America. Real change never takes place from the top on down. It’s always from the bottom on up.
Whether it is the right of workers to be a member of a union. That took place when millions of workers stood up and fought for that right. Whether it is the Civil Rights Movement when, for hundreds of years, millions of African Americans and their white allies said America will not be a racist, bigoted country. And change took place when people stood up and demanded an end to segregation and racism.
A hundred years ago today, women in America did not have the right to vote, could not go to certain schools, could not do the jobs they wanted. Change, for women's rights, did not take place because somebody signed a bill; it took place because millions of women, and their male allies, said in America women will not be second-class citizens.
If we were here ten years ago, and somebody stood up and said, “You know, I think that gay marriage will be legal in 50 states of this country by 2015,” the person next to him would have said, "What are you smoking?," which is a whole other issue! But, again, this is how change takes place. The gay community, and their straight allies, said that in America people should have the right to love and marry the people they want regardless of gender.
What's my point? My point is real change always takes place when millions of people look around them and they say, you know what, the status quo is not acceptable.
It is not acceptable that women are not treated equally!
It is not acceptable that we have racism in this country!
It is not acceptable that gay people do not have the right to marry!
We’re gonna change it!
And that is where we are today!
It is not acceptable that we have more income and wealth inequality than any other major country on Earth!
It is not acceptable that we are the only major country on Earth that doesn't guarantee paid family and medical leave and health care to ALL!
It is not acceptable that we have the highest rate of childhood poverty of almost any major country on Earth!
It is not acceptable that we have veterans sleeping out on the street when people want to give hundreds of billions of dollars in tax breaks to the wealthiest one percent!
It is not acceptable that millions of people in this country are being crushed by outrageous levels of student debt!
It is not acceptable that when the scientists tell us we have a short window of opportunity to transform our energy system, that we are not moving as aggressively as we should!
Now, what do we do to change it? What we do to change these things is to make certain that we have a government that represents ALL of us and not just wealthy campaign contributors. The way we change this is when millions of people begin to get involved in the political process in a way that we have not seen for many years.
Every person here today is enormously powerful if you choose to use your power! If a couple of million students tell Washington, D.C., that they are not going to spend their lives paying off student debt, trust me, Congress will make public colleges and universities tuition-free. But that does not happen unless you tell them!!
When workers tell Congress that they demand a 15 dollar an hour minimum wage, we'll get it, but it won't happen unless workers stand up and fight for it!
So what this campaign is about is more than electing a president; it is making a political revolution to transform our country!
And you are a part of that revolution!
What we have learned in this campaign, having won 9 states, is we do well when people come out to vote and there are large voter turnouts. Let's win here, in Florida, on Tuesday. Come out to vote! Thank you very much!