Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders does not usually mince words in his fiery speeches, and his commencement address to Brooklyn College graduates on Tuesday was no exception.
Returning to his home borough of Brooklyn, Sanders addressed many of the issues that drove his 2016 presidential campaign: income inequality, the criminal justice system and climate change. Amid his calls for students to embrace “progressive, humane values,” Sanders offered four key pieces of advice to the class of 2017 as they enter a new phase of their lives.
1. Never forget who sacrificed to make your dreams possible
Toward the beginning of his remarks, Sanders took time to reflect on the people who made his success possible: his parents. He recalled growing up in a three-and-a-half-room, rent-controlled apartment, struggling with financial pressure.
“From those experiences of growing up without a lot of money, I have never forgotten that there are millions of people throughout this country who struggle to put food on the table, pay the electric bill, try to save for their kids’ education or for retirement — people who, against great odds, are fighting today to live in dignity,” Sanders told the crowd.
Sanders spoke about his father’s decision at age 17 to leave Poland, a country in which “anti-Semitism, pogroms and attacks on Jews were not uncommon.” While his father was able to escape the terrors of the Holocaust, several of his relatives did not.
“For them, racism, right-wing extremism and ultra-nationalism were not ‘political issues,’” Sanders said. “They were issues of life and death — and some of them died horrific…