(CN) – Onetime presidential hopeful and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders held a rally Tuesday at Shawnee State University in Portsmouth, Ohio, to discuss jobs, health care, and the economy.
During the rally, Shawnee State political science major David Walker spoke about the financial challenges he faces as a full-time student.
“After four years and many, many late nights, there is no guarantee that we (college students) will have the opportunity to find a job in our chosen field,” Walker said. “The rising costs of education has made it harder for the majority of Americans like you and me.”
Sanders also addressed the nation’s health care needs. “In many parts of America, if you don’t have decent health insurance, you can’t gain access to a doctor, or a dentist, or a mental health counselor.”
The senator called for a Medicare expansion which would include all Americans. “Why is America the only major country on earth to not guarantee health care to all of its people?” he asked to massive applause.
Kendra Lewis, from Memford, Ohio, came to the rally to support Sanders’ Medicare expansion and health care for all. Lewis spoke of being the young mother of a severely disabled epileptic son.
“We have a lot of fears regarding medical care in the United States. He was born having had a stroke and I was very young when I had him. If wasn’t for the insurance that we had at the time, he honestly wouldn’t have survived. He developed intractable epilepsy when he was four years old after all the troubles we already had,” Lewis said.
“I was forced to drop out of college in order to be there for him. He had to have very serious brain surgery, in which they had to remove part of his brain in order to get his seizures under control. And while gratefully we were able to do that, it was considered an elective surgery. It’s an up to $50,000 surgery and without it, he would have eventually died.”
Sanders also drew applause when he discussed the $15 hour minimum wage law he wants to create. Drew Carter, a spoken-word performer, discussed poverty in the United States.
“When many of us hear the words poverty, we think about little black babies in Africa with flies in their face. We don’t think about the little black, white, brown, and Native American babies right here in the United States,” Carter said. “Do you know what it’s like to walk around the corner and see blood stains on the pavement from your uncle who was just shot seven times? Do you know what it’s like to be 14 years old, stopped and frisked, because you fit the description every other week? Do you know what it’s like to cry mean tears because recognition is catching up to all your peers? Walking into the courthouse and the only people there who look like you are the ones being convicted?”
Sanders also expressed his endorsement of labor unions and invited Dan Shirley, a 20-year member of the International Brotherhood of Electric Worker’s Local Union 575, to speak at the rally on behalf of labor unions.
“Sadly, I’ve witnessed, firsthand, the decline of the labor unions, which equate to the decline of the working conditions, wages, benefits and the middle class,” Shirley said. “Through this dignified career, I’ve been able to provide for my family and be a productive member of society.”
Sanders spoke about wealth inequity – a familiar topic from his days campaigning against Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination for president.
“The top tenth of 1 percent now owns as much as the bottom 90 percent. In America today, the 20 wealthiest people own as much wealth as the bottom half of the people in this country. In fact, one person, one family, the Walton family, owns as much wealth as the bottom 42 percent of Americans.
“Now, right here in your county and in my home state of Vermont, it is not uncommon for people to be working two or three jobs. You’ve got moms working, dads working, and the children are working. Fifty-two percent of all new income is going to the top 1 percent”
“Are you satisfied, “Sanders asked the crowd, “living in a nation in which so few have so much and so many have so little?
“I happen to believe that as human beings and as Americans we are entitled to certain rights. We have a great Constitution, we have the Bill of Rights, we have freedom of religion, a whole lot of freedoms that the founders of this country said that we as Americans are entitled to. I would add to those rights: that the American people also are entitled to certain economic rights and at the top of that list, to me, is the right to health care whether you are rich or poor.”
Jennifer Wall, from Chesapeake, Ohio, also came to the rally in support of Sanders. “I came because I wanted to hear the ideas that Bernie was putting forward that we need to get together and support,” she said. “We cannot tolerate much more of the current regime’s policies and I offer supporting America’s single-payer health care.”