Bernie Sanders attacks Trump, celebrates diversity at Brooklyn College commencement • Brooklyn Paper

Bernie Sanders attacks Trump, celebrates diversity at Brooklyn College commencement

He’s a grad now: Sen. Bernie Sanders gave the commencement address for Brooklyn College at Barclays Center on May 30.
Brooklyn College / Marko Jokic

He’s Bernin’ up!

Brooklyn-born Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders denounced racism, sexism, and xenophobia during his address to graduates of Brooklyn College at the Barclays Center on May 30, and used the podium to unleash a thinly veiled attack on President Trump.

“If we are prepared to stand together, if we take on greed and selfishness, if we refuse to allow demagogues to divide us up, there is no end to what the great people of our nation can accomplish,” said the James Madison High School alum, who didn’t utter the Trump’s name. “You know, and I know, that these are tough times in our country, But looking out at the beautiful people in front of me, I have enormous confidence in the future of our country.”

The Flatbush-native and former presidential hopeful, who attended Brooklyn College in 1959 but ended up graduating from the University of Chicago in 1964, made the comments before a profoundly diverse class of more than 4,100 — many of whom are immigrants or the children of immigrants from more than 143 countries, and who speak nearly 100 different languages — during a time when the school itself has been rocked by anti-Muslim and anti-Semitic rhetoric caught in the middle of the complex Israeli-Palestinian conflict, its fight to ultimately become a “sanctuary campus” for undocumented students, and controversy surrounding the City University of New York’s decision to invite Palestinian-American activist Linda Sarsour to speak at its upcoming commencement.

The self-proclaimed Democratic Socialist implored the graduating Bulldogs to stand up to hateful rhetoric, as someone whose own childhood was shaped by his family fleeing anti-Semitism and the Holocaust, he said.

“From that experience, what was indelibly stamped on me was the understanding that we must never allow demagogues to divide us up by race, by religion, by national origin, by gender or sexual orientation,” said Sanders during his speech. “Black, white, Latino, Asian American, Native American, Christian, Jew, Muslim, and every religion, straight or gay, male or female, we must stand together. This country belongs to all of us.”

Sanders also addressed the country’s shrinking middle class and the deepening pockets of the one percent — a favorite theme of his from the campaign trail, along which he also returned to his roots to stump outside his childhood home last April.

And Sanders offered the graduates one last message before they moved their tassels to the other side and threw their caps in the air — do not sit idly by, but to stand up and fight for what they believe in.

“So today, as you graduate Brooklyn College, my message to you is very simple. Think big, not small, and help us create the nation that we all know we can become,” he said to loud cheers.

A handful of other politicians also addressed the crowd, including Sen. Chuck Schumer, Public Advocate Leticia James, Borough President Adams, and Councilman Jumaane Williams (D–Midwood), who is also a Brooklyn College alum.

The school awarded Sanders with an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters.

Reach reporter Julianne Cuba at (718) 260–4577 or by e-mail at jcuba@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @julcuba.

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