Sen. Sanders visits MAU

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BENNINGTON — As part of his two-day visit to Southern Vermont, U.S. Senator and former Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders visited Mount Anthony Union High School on Friday.

Sanders gave a speech and answered questions from students in the school's auditorium for about 30 minutes. The speech touched upon many of his common topics from the campaign, including wealth and income inequality, healthcare as a human right, and limiting the influence of the top one percent on politics.

"Democracy is a pretty radical idea, and a fairly new idea in world history," said Sanders to the students, "What democracy is about is a nation in which we don't have a king, or a queen, or a czar making all of the decisions. Throughout history you have some autocrat on top, who owned half the country, and said, 'Alright, I think we're going to go to war!' The people have no choice about it, they have to fight in the war and they die. 'We're going to raise taxes on the peasants or the farmers!' People had no say about what they were paying in taxes. One person, or a small group of people, made decisions that impacted everybody's lives. Then throughout history, here in the United States, great Americans like Washington, and Jefferson, and Hamilton, and all those guys, and in France, people began to say, you know what, we should not just have a few people making decisions. The people have got to make those decisions. That's what democracy is about, and in our country we have struggled with democracy from day one."

Despite this, said Sanders, citing low voter turnout nationally, people are giving up on democracy. "People don't understand that they have the power to change what goes on locally, at the state level, and at the national level. The most important point I want to make, especially for the young people themselves, is you and millions of people like you have the ability to shape the future of this country. Don't sit back and complain and say, 'Oh, this is terrible, somebody else is doing terrible things to me.' You have the power to make things happen if you use your brains and figure out how to do it. That's what democracy is about. If you don't like something, don't just moan and groan about it, figure out how you can change the system, figure out what the impediments are, why are we not moving in this direction? Respect people who have different points of view, but start thinking about the issues."

Sanders also toured the Southwest Vermont Career Development Center's manufacturing technology program with instructor Adam Cannistraci, CDC director and superintendent Michael Lawler, and Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union superintendent Jim Culkeen. Students showed the senator the new machines they use in the fabrication process, which Cannistraci said were installed in December, replacing the 21-year old machines the center had been using.

Lawler spoke to the regional the center's manufacturing program, saying, "It's something that this area needs. We've talked to local manufacturers, it's hard to find skilled employees."

Reach staff writer Derek Carson at 802-447-7567, ext. 122 or @DerekCarsonBB

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