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Presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders receives hero’s welcome at U of C

Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders was met with open arms at the University of Chicago on Monday.

David Axelrod, director of the school’s Institute of Politics and President Barack Obama’s former political adviser, who reels in trending politicians to speak at the school, introduced his guest: “We have never had a president named Bernie Sanders. Ladies and gentlemen, Bernie Sanders.”

From the get-go applause was frequent for Sanders, whose momentum grew as he shared status quo shattering agenda items.

“No president, not Barack Obama, not Bernie Sanders, not anybody else can implement the changes we need in this country without a political revolution,” he told hundreds of college students who attended the event at the school’s Rockefeller Memorial Chapel.

“I am talking about the need to transform the political system,” Sanders said with energy fueled by the crowd. “The assumption right now on the part of the Republican leadership is that most people don’t vote, most people don’t know what’s going on, and many people have given up on the political process. And if you are a Republican, that’s great. They love it because the smaller the voter turnout the better they do.”

Sanders said millions of voices speaking in concert can act as a powerful counterweight.

“We will win because we are going to make them an offer they can’t refuse, and that is: Do the right thing. Or in a short period of time they’re going to be looking for another job.”

For 50 minutes, the senator from Vermont covered issues ranging from the need for a national $15 minimum wage to the absolute necessity for publicly financed elections to take the millionaires and billionaires who taint elections and policy thereafter by controlling the purse strings of preferred candidates.

Sanders noted that he wanted everyone in the audience to be able to run for office without “begging millionaires for campaign contributions” and reiterated his pledge, should he win office, to only appoint Supreme Court justices who would overturn a previous ruling that lifted restrictions on the political spending of outside groups such as corporations.

A supporter holds up a painting of U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) as

A supporter holds up a painting of Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., as the presidential hopeful spoke Monday at the University of Chicago. | Ashlee Rezin/For the Sun-Times

His message oftentimes echoed those he espoused more than five decades ago as an undergraduate at the University of Chicago where he honed his sense of social justice while fighting for causes such as equal rights.

Sanders noted that had his classmates been told on graduation day in 1964 that a black man would one day be elected president or gay marriage would be the law of the land, the messenger would have been deemed out of his mind.

Tyler Kissinger, a University of Chicago senior and student body president, was among Sanders’ supporters in the crowd.

“He is right in saying the system is flawed,” Kissinger said. “His ideas don’t have a chance of going through without questioning how the system works at a base level.”

Kissinger said the tide had recently turned on campus.

“When I talk to my peers, I never hear about people who are excited about Hillary Clinton,” he said.

In a new poll conducted by the Wall Street Journal and NBC News, Clinton leads Sanders 53 percent to 38 percent among primary voters. According to the poll, Sanders is gaining on Clinton, who led by 34 percentage points in July.

Supporters clap and cheer as democratic presidential candidate U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) talks to the University of Chicago, his alma mater,

Supporters applaud and cheer as Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks Monday at the University of Chicago, his alma mater, | Ashlee Rezin/For the Sun-Times