2017-03-17 / Front Page Sanders talks ACA, grassroots activism at event By NEIL P. ALLEN firstname.lastname@example.org Sen. Bernie Sanders stood in front of more than 400 people at Riverside Middle School in Springfield for a town hall meeting on Thursday, March 16. — NEIL P. ALLEN Sen. Bernie Sanders stood in front of more than 400 people at Riverside Middle School in Springfield for a town hall meeting on Thursday, March 16. — NEIL P. ALLEN SPRINGFIELD, Vt. — More than 400 residents from Vermont, New Hampshire and beyond gathered in the gymnasium at Riverside Middle School in Springfield for a town hall meeting with Sen. Bernie Sanders on Thursday, March 16. During the more than 90-minute-long meeting, Sanders spoke about the issues facing Vermonters, including changes that may be coming down from the White House that could impact health insurance, students, and the economy. “Democracy and politics are not as complicated as some would suggest,” Sanders said. “Democracy is about having a conversation and coming up with ideas. It about respecting people with different points of view.” Sanders addressed the wealth of the country. “We are the richest country in the history of the world. We have the resources to do all the things we need to do,” he said. “The income and wealth inequality is worse than any time since before 1928. One-tenth of one percent have as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent. “The people on top are doing phenomenally well while there are millions of people in desperate poverty,” Sanders continued. It is estimated that they Vermont lose $200 million if the Affordable Care Act is repealed. “Republicans are rethinking the [Affordable Care Act]. We’re going to make them an offer they cannot refuse — we’re going to work overtime to make sure they don’t get re-elected,” said Sanders. He talked more about democracy. “Trump is wrong on the major issues. Democracy in this country has had a rocky and difficult road … we have struggled to overcome prejudice. Martin Luther King said, ‘Don’t judge me for the color of my skin, judge me by my character,’” Sanders said, receiving a standing ovation. Rose, from Marlboro, asked if the post card writing campaign that she and others had been doing was being effective. “Millions of people started sending postcards, writing letters, making calls … they are writing the Affordable Care Act bill,” Sanders replied. “They are finding out that the American people are catching on.” Lou described himself as a husband, father and hard worker. “This election was nothing short of a disaster,” he said. “When are the Democrats going to go away and have a new progressive party rise from the ashes?” “I’m going to be telling the democratic party that if it doesn’t get its act together, a lot of people are going to be sharing your sentiment,” said Sanders. “We’re making some progress but it needs to be a grassroots party. “The silver lining from the Trump presidency is that millions of people have woken up,” he continued. “Go outside your zone of comfort and start talking to people. Start breaking into conversations with them about the issues,” Sanders said. "Educate and organize, especially the youth." A teacher stood before Sanders with two of his students. “What can I tell my students tomorrow to give them hope and joy?” “You can say that this is not the only difficult moment in our history. We have come through difficult times before. People came together and made change,” Sanders said. “And, democracy is not a spectator sport. You have to get out there.” He ended with some inspiration. “Despair is not an option,” he said. “Stand up and fight back.” Friday, March 17, 2017 Health care tops Sanders’ meet Rutland Herald | March 17, 2017 By SUSAN SMALLHEER STAFF WRITER Sen. Bernie Sanders addresses more than 1,500 people Thursday night in Springfield. SUSAN SMALLHEER / STAFF PHOTO Sen. Bernie Sanders addresses more than 1,500 people Thursday night in Springfield. SUSAN SMALLHEER / STAFF PHOTO SPRINGFIELD— Absence definitely made the heart fonder. More than 1,500 men, women and children packed the gymnasium at Riverside Middle School on Thursday night to see Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., who returned their enthusiasm and delivered one of his classic speeches about health care, economic opportunity and college affordability. The crowd, sitting on folding chairs and on bleachers, warmly cheered Sanders’ at almost every turn, and gave him standing ovations when he talked about fighting racism and cuts in health care. The crowd stomped their feet in approval when he called for “Medicare for all.” “This is a fantastic turnout,” Sanders said. “Democracy is alive and well in Springfield.” But if there was an issue people brought up again and again, it was health care: health care for single moms, mental health care for veterans, and treatment for people addicted to drugs and alcohol. Sanders said the cuts in the American Health Care Act proposed by President Donald Trump would mean thousands of Vermonters losing coverage and would shift the burden of paying for nursing homes onto middle-class families. “The Affordable Care Act is far from perfect, it needs improvement,” Sanders said of the existing federal health plan, but kicking 24 million Americans off health insurance would be disastrous. “The Trump administration is taking us in exactly the wrong direction,” Sanders said. He said he wanted to hear about “how to bring people together … and respecting people who have a different point of view.” It’s been three years since Sanders held a similar town meeting in his home state, but no one criticized that hiatus Thursday night, and it had the aura of a campaign event with a large group of Sanders’ staff members organizing a large event and T-shirt sales promoting “Rights and Democracy.” Sanders is expected to run for re-election in 2018, but there is also persistent talk of Sanders running again for president. Michael Martin of Springfield, a new member of the Select Board, said he felt it was his duty to come to such a big event in Springfield. Dory Hindinger, 11, of Weathersfield, and her sister, Brooke, 10, students at Weathersfield Elementary School, said they came to the Sanders town meeting because it would be “fun” and “inspirational.” And there was a college student, Caitlin Cavanaugh, 21, from nearby Charlestown, New Hampshire, who said her friends and fellow students at Keene State College were ready to continue supporting Sanders if he runs again for president. Cavanaugh said Sanders was a progressive thinker, who “thought long term instead of the short term.” There were international graduate students from the School for International Training from Syria, Sudan, Uganda and Yemen. Sanders was introduced by Springfield School Superintendent Dr. Zach McLaughlin, who was joined by Mark Curran, one of the founders of Black River Produce, who asked Sanders what could be done to bring young people back to Vermont and to create the jobs they want. And a Springfield High School senior Matt Power said the costs of college were staggering, but he said he had no choice but to go into debt so he could become an airline pilot, his long-term dream. It was Sanders’ last stop of a busy day that started in St. Johnsbury, continued in White River Junction at the Veterans Administration Hospital, and also included a stop in Brattleboro to announce a major grant for Windham Grows, a economic development program under The Strolling of the Heifers. More than 750 people packed the Latchis Theatre in downtown Brattleboro to see Sanders in the flesh.