ED/OP Bernie Sanders Rally at Temple University’s Liacouras Center
We drive 8 blocks to just shy of Broad and Norris and park our car amongst a litany of food trucks and campus security kiosks. Having received notification of this event a mere 72 hours previous (and our ability to cover it sometime within the last 2) my faithful photographer and I depart towards an unknown destination. Things move fast in this day and age. If it wasn’t for a timely placed snapchat of the media check-in table from a fellow photog, along with the begrudgingly typed geographic clue of it being “somewhere along 15th street,” we may have never found our point of access. Undaunted, with sunglasses on and bags slung over our shoulders, we meandered towards a growing line of an expected 10,000+ now snaking around the North-Western corner of Temple University’s Liacouras Center. Senator Bernard Sanders had announced just a few short days ago his impending presence in the city of brotherly love, and approaching the stadium chosen to host his speaking engagement it was readily apparent that a wide and diverse range of eager spectators and supporters were willing to drop their plans and line up long in advance for a better view of an assuredly historic moment.
One pedestrian inquiry and a quick reference of our hastily printed credentials later and we surmised our journey’s end to be 15th street between Montgomery and Cecil B Moore Avenues. Much like the rest of the hardest working volunteers we’ve met for the Sander’s campaign, the check-in workers at the press tent spanned a multi-generational gap that might only be united by something as big as the Sanders himself. This campaign is nothing if not grass roots; one needs only to view the setting of the Senator’s campaign announcement in May 2015 juxtaposed with any recent campaign rally to see the amount of steam and elbow grease the Sanders machine has gained in the roughly 12 months past. If Philadelphia is any indicator on the man’s current momentum, 7 wins in the last 8 contests, then 12,000 people might not be wrong in the message that they are sending. Bernie has become the voice of the disenfranchised, many of his supporters having previously never engaged in politics whatsoever. It is truly a sight to behold to watch this hodgepodge of supporters, this motley crew of Philadelphians filing in to a stadium most known to our demographic for hosting an Avicii concert and Temple Owl Basketball games. Yet here we all are, true believers assembled: hanging on for hope in an age of corruption, unwilling to be apathetic or skeptical in the face of insurmountable reason, showing up to the fight when it matters the most, filling the stands of this stadium to the brims in this one rare moment where we can come together en masse to feel like we have our greatest fighting chance. It’s clear that Bernie is the biggest draw in town since the Pope, and this crowd is ready to get rowdy.
The band reaches a crescendo, yes-that’s right-Bernie has like a 10-piece house band, and a female MC identified as ‘Latrice’ whips the audience, now half filling the stands, into a vocal call and response. She asks the crowd if they “Feel the Bern?” and they roar in retort to signify that yes, Sander’s is a campaign message that smolders long after he has finished (or in this case, begun) speaking. Bernie Sanders has brought us here, as diverse a crowd as you will ever see at a political rally, with one mission uniting us: to leave inspired. To feel inspired. To see a man inspired. A man with an unwavering commitment to his ideals. A man, for example, who marched with Dr. King, who went to jail fighting segregated housing, who voted against the Iraq war and has been on the fundamentally correct side of Women and Minority rights actively in our Senate for more decades than I have been alive. Like so many members of my generation, no matter how skeptical we may be in other areas in our lives, there has to have recently come a moment when examining the 74 year old Senator from Vermont’s undeniable commitment to his voting record when one realizes it’s accuracy extends pass one’s own years logged on the planet… when you realize, “yeah, I should probably let this guy just speak for me carte blanche.” That moment is here. This is a man worth believing in.
And Bernie does seem to be the voice of reason in 2016. I’ve never felt faith, never served a general in battle, but when this man speaks I am raised up, lifted up to a higher platform, expectant of more from my fellow man and myself than I was previously willing to challenge. This is why he is so special. Nowhere near as charismatic an orator as his well-groomed opponents, Bernie’s secret power is that when he speaks you can tell he MEANS it! This humble senior citizen of the United States, riding coach to and from his speaking engagements and connecting with individual campaign donors on a level never before seen in American Politics, this tousled-hair, slightly-bent-over, bird-conjuring magician of a man who can convince the hardest working amongst us to part with $27 for one final spin of the roulette wheel of believability: Bernie has us convinced he is not only our best bet, he is our last and only bet. And tonight in Philadelphia this capacity crowd is clearly all in, and willing to bet the farm.
The stadium is now filled to it’s 10,000 person limit. We’ve heard the man of the hour will be speaking sometime after 8pm, and that he is currently preparing to address the overflow crowd of 2,000+ in an adjacent area. Normally this would illicit an unfavorable reaction from any pent up event audience, especially in Philadelphia, but the good will and attitudes buzzing amongst this crowd is like a palpable electricity in the air: everyone is charged up, and it’s actually reassuring to know Bernie would never leave a crowd of 2,000 (or probably even 200) hanging after traveling all the way down here to make the engagement. Our female MC announces “Sunny D” on the drumkit mid-solo, and the band continues to jam full of brass, vim and vigor, jazzing up this crowd with equals parts of funk, soul and the occasional political chant. By 8pm the soundman has cued up a playlist, and the Disc Jockey inside of me can’t help but note each track as it passes. It becomes an undeniable audio smorgasbord of the clearly ‘labored-over’ variety, representative of the diverse musical tastes and political interests that unite this vibrant sea of faces gazing down into the Liacouras center tonight. It kicks off with Willie Nelson’s “On the Road Again” and I think of Bernie backstage smiling, knowing he has filled this stadium to the brim and then some. Maybe he’s chuckling as Willie sings about how he “can’t wait to get on the road again…” for this is truly a way of life for Senator Sanders: on the road, working tirelessly traveling state to state to bring a voice to the people. He isn’t flying first class to fundraisers, not meeting behind closed doors for plate fees, he is spending his time treading tirelessly towards equality for all tax brackets, spending as much time speaking as listening, and echoing the sentiments of so many Americans who long for a greater coming together, not time or resources spent discussing walls or private servers. Bernie is a man with a message, not a super PAC and a shady marketing department. He has traveled all this way to bring that message to us, to bring us voice to our unrelenting struggle, to bring this crowd of 10,000 or more to their feet, poised for action and asking themselves, “What can we do?” I ready my recorder for the man to make his way to the podium, and catch more tracks from the playlist, letting their collective sentiment wash over me while I prepare myself to hear the words for my own ears that Bernie has been speaking since before I was born, and the track selections do not disappoint:
The Rolling Stones, “Beast of Burden,” Neil Young, “Keep On Rockin’ in the Free World,” Simon & Garfunkel “America,” some unidentified Spanish ska song that had me way too hype (kudos to the selector), and to sum it all up nicely Toots and the Maytals “Revolution.” At this point the Liacouras center has reached fever pitch.
Finally, the moment we have all been waiting for, Bernie begins speaking! I will let the 45 minutes of audio I transcribed from the tape recorder slung around my neck do the talking for me as to just what Bernie’s message was last Wednesday night for the 10,000 person audience in attendance, but if I had to sum it all up nicely in the 3 words that brought more cheers and applause raining down on Senator Sanders than any other quote of the night it would have to be this: “Love trumps Hatred.”
No matter the outcome of this primary, the general election, the future of our country and it’s political parties, if we can just have faith in that one guiding principal, if 10,000 people can show up at a time and stay unified behind it, we might have just a chance! I know for one leaving the Liacouras center last Weds night and looking forward to the results of our upcoming fights in NY and PA, I feel like we a better chance than ever. If we can continue to come together like this, if voter turnout can match the enthusiasm I witnessed in this stadium, we just might win this thing one way or the other.
Hope you enjoy this audio as much as I enjoyed recording it for you. I remain your faithful gonzo journalist, Aaron Ruxbin.