Bernie speaks to grads

One of Vermont’s most recognizable and outspoken political leaders will be stopping by Castleton next week – and he won’t be singing the praises of President Bush. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is set to give the commencement speech to the graduating Castleton class of 2008 Saturday, May 17. The event will take place on the Old Chapel green at 2 p.m.

Castleton is one of many stops the Senator makes throughout the state of Vermont, as he routinely tries to visit as many high schools and colleges as he can each year.

“I very much enjoy the opportunity to speak to young people in the state of Vermont,” he said. “I’m delighted to have been invited to give the commencement speech at Castleton.”

Castleton students are also anxious to hear the senator speak to the graduating class that totals roughly 400 students.

Sanders is known throughout Vermont and the Senate as one of the more progressive, and sometimes brutally honest, members of the U.S. Congress. He is currently the longest-serving independent member of Congress in America, and also represented Vermont in the U.S. House of Representatives for 16 years before becoming a Vermont Senator in 2006.

One of Sanders’ biggest draws in recent years – especially among college students — is his completely unapologetic and abrasive attitude towards the current U.S. President, George W Bush.

“I happen to believe he will go down in history as one of the worst presidents in this country,” Sanders said.

Sanders placed the blame of many of America’s current problems, such as an ailing economy, decline of the middle class, and the Iraq War on poor policies introduced by the Bush Administration.

Many of the problems will be inherited by students graduating from Castleton next week, he said.

“If we do not change our economic policies in a very significant direction, the graduating class this year of Castleton College will likely be the first group of people in modern American history to have a lower standard of living than their parents’,” Sanders said.

Sanders encouraged the next generation to get involved in public services, citing a severe need for more doctors and nurses, teachers, environmental advocates, and law enforcement officials. Despite numerous problems facing Americans of all types, Sanders does not want people to give up hope on changing the future.

“They [young people] have, with other Americans, the capability of transforming our country into a very, very, different direction,” Sanders said. “I just don’t want them to be cynical.”

Sanders also warned that there is no quick fix for the country’s problems. He hopes that the record number of young voters participating in the primary elections so far this year don’t expect the next president of the U.S. to clean everything up overnight. It will take time and hard work.

“It’s absolutely imperative that young people be involved with the political process,” he said. “We desperately need idealistic young people to help make this country a better place.”

“And it’s the young generation that can do that,” he said.

Speaking to the younger generation, and not without a sense of humor, Sanders recently appeared on “The Colbert Report,” a Comedy Central program popular with college students.

The Comedy Central “comedy/news” TV show hosted by Stephen Colbert pokes fun at political talk shows in the vein of FOX’s “The O’Reilly Factor” and CNN’s “Hardball with Chris Matthews.” The show is known for its humorous commentary on world events, politics, and entertainment.

“I used to think making it to the United States Senate was a big deal, but now I’ve learned that’s not the case,” Sanders said. “Getting on The Colbert Report is what has made my name here.

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