Bernie Sanders

Remarks at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.

November 19, 2015

Thank you. Thank you all for being out on this beautiful day and let me thank Mo and Shweta for that wonderful introduction.

I think my message to you all today is a pretty simple one. And that is, our country faces some enormous problems. And these problems are not going to be solved if people turn away from political struggle, if people throw up their hands in despair and say "I don't want to get involved; it's all crap."

You are getting a great education here in Georgetown and I hope very much you will learn -- use what you have learned here to fight to create a better world and to follow in the traditions of so many people for so many years who have struggled to create a more democratic and just society.

Let me take you now back to the year 1937, and in his inaugural address, in the midst of the Great Depression, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt looked out at the nation, in the midst of this terrible depression, and this is what he saw and this what he talked about in his inaugural.

He saw tens of millions of people denied the basic necessities of life. He saw millions of families trying to live on incomes so meager that the pall of family disaster hung over them every single day. He saw millions of his fellow Americans denied education, recreation, and the opportunity to better their lot and the lot of their children. He saw millions lacking the means to buy the products they needed.

And by their poverty -- by their lack of disposal income -- denying employment to many other millions, because when you don't have money to spend, you're not creating jobs for other people. He saw one-third of a nation ill-housed, ill-clad, and ill-nourished. And he acted -- against the ferocious opposition of the ruling class of his day, people he called "the economic royalists".

Roosevelt implemented a series of programs that put millions of Americans back to work, took them out of dire poverty and restored their faith in government. He redefined the relationship of the federal government to the people of our nation. He combated cynicism, fear and despair. He reinvigorated democracy. He transformed our country. And that is exactly we have to do today.

And by the way, almost everything he proposed -- almost every program -- every idea he introduced was called socialist. [applause]

I thought I would mention that just in passing. [laughter]

Social Security -- which all of you know, transformed life for senior citizens in this country -- was defined by his opponents as socialist. The concept of the minimum wage -- that workers had to be paid at least a certain amount of money for their labor was seen as a radical intrusion into the marketplace, and was described as socialist. Unemployment insurance -- when you lose your job you have something to fall back upon. Abolishing child labor -- ending the fact that children of 8, 10, 12 years of age were working in factories or working in the fields. The 40-hour work week. Collective bargaining -- the rights of workers to engage in negotiations with the Union. Strong banking regulations, deposit insurance and job programs that put millions of people to work were all described, in one way or another, as socialist.

Yet, as you all know, all of these programs, and many more, have become the fabric of our nation and, in fact, the foundation of our middle class. Thirty years later after Roosevelt's speech in the 1960's, President Lyndon Johnson fought for Medicare and Medicaid to provide health care to millions of senior citizens and families with children, persons with disabilities and some of the vulnerable people in this country.

Today, Medicare does not seem to be such a terribly radical idea -- to say that when somebody gets old they should have medical insurance. But when it was proposed, once again, we heard right-wing forces describe these programs as socialistic and a threat to the American way of life. That was then. Now is now.

Today, in the year 2015, despite the Wall Street crash of 2008, which drove this country into the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, the American people are clearly better off economically than they were in 1937. But here is a very hard truth that we must acknowledge, we must address, we must not sweep under the rug, and that is, despite a huge increase in technology -- and I can remember back -- I was mayor of the city of Burlington, Vermont -- anybody here from Vermont? [applause]

OK. And when I was mayor in the 1980's, a radical development took place. We got computers in City Hall. [laughter]

OK? 1980's. Despite a huge increase in technology and worker productivity, meaning that almost every worker in America with that technology is producing a lot more than workers that came before, despite major growth in our GDP and a huge increase in the global economy, tens of millions of American families continue today to lack the basic necessities of life, while millions more struggle every day to provide a minimal standard of living for their families.

And I hope none of you will turn your back on that reality. And the truth is -- and, again, this is a truth we must put on the table. Yes, we are better off today economically than we were seven years ago when Bush left office, but the other truth is that for the last 40 years -- 40 years under Republican leadership and Democratic leadership -- the great middle class of our country has been in decline and faith in our political system is now extremely low.

New technology, increased worker productivity, people working longer hours for lower wages, faith in our political system now extremely low. The very rich get richer. Almost everyone else gets poorer. Super-PACs, funded by billionaires, buy elections. Koch Brothers alone -- and a few of their friends -- will spend more money in this election cycle than either the Democratic or Republican parties.

Ordinary people, working people, young people don't vote. We have an economic and political crisis in this country and the same old, same old politics and economics will not effectively address those crises.

If we are serious about transforming our country -- and I hope all of you are serious about our transforming our country. If we are serious about rebuilding the American middle class, if we are serious about re-invigorating American democracy, we need to develop a political movement which, once again, is prepared to take on and defeat a ruling class whose greed is destroying our nation. [applause]

Now, I know that terms like ruling class -- probably not talked about too often here at Georgetown... [applause]

Not too often talked about on CBS or NBC, but that is the simple fact. And in my view, the billionaire class must be told loudly and clearly that they cannot have it all, that our government belongs to all of us; not just a handful of billionaires. [applause]

But this goes beyond politics. We need to create a culture -- an entire culture which, as Pope Francis has reminded us, cannot just be based on the worship of money. We must not accept a nation in which billionaires compete as to the size of their super-yachts while children in America go hungry and veterans -- men and women who have put their lives on the line to defend us -- sleep out on the streets.

Today in America, we are the wealthiest nation in the history of the world. But few Americans know that because so much of the new income and wealth is going to the people on top. In fact, over the last 30 years, there has been a massive redistribution of wealth. Problem is, it has gone in the wrong direction. [applause]

In the last 30 years, we have seen trillions of dollars flow from the hands of working families and the middle class to the top one- tenth of one percent. A handful of people, top one-tenth of one percent, who have seen a doubling of the percentage of the wealth that they own during that period -- doubling of the percentage of wealth they own.

Unbelievably and grotesquely, the top one-tenth of one percent today owns nearly as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent. One-tenth of one percent owns nearly as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent. That is not the kind of America that we should accept. [applause]

I can tell you that in my state of Vermont and all over this country, it is absolutely not uncommon to see people working two jobs or three jobs to cobble together the income and the health care they and their families need. In fact, Americans work longer hours than do the people of any other industrialized country.

But despite the fact that our people are working so hard -- I go around the country and I see a lot of working people, and you can see the stress and exhaustion on their faces. They're working crazy hours. Husbands hardly see wives. People don't have the quality time for their kids because they're working so hard just to bring up -- bring in the income to survive. And despite all of that -- despite our people working so hard, 58 percent of all new income generated today is going to the top one percent.

Today in America, as the middle class continues to disappear, median family income is $4,100 less than it was in 1999. The median male worker made over $700 less than he did 42 years ago in inflation adjusted for dollars. Do you know why people are angry? They are angry because they are working terribly hard; and yet, in real, inflation adjusted for dollars, they are earning less. And they're looking all over and they say "What's happening? Why is that?"

But it's not just men. Last year, the median female worker earned more than $1000 less than she did in 2007, and 58 percent of all new income goes to the top one percent.

Today in America, the wealthiest country in the history of world -- that's what we are today -- more than half of older workers have zero retirement savings. Think about that. You're 50, 55 years of age and you're thinking, "All right, how am I going to retire? But because my wages have gone down, I have zero in the bank for retirement."

And, at the same time, all over America, you've got millions of seniors and people with disabilities trying to survive on $12,000 or $13,000 a year Social Security. From Vermont to California, older workers are scared to death, and they are saying "How am I going to retire with dignity?"

And I want all of you -- you can get your calculators out -- not now, when you leave here. Do some arithmetic and try to put yourself in the place of a senior citizen in my state of Vermont where it gets cold in the winter, trying to survive on $13,000 a year and you tell me how you are going to pay for the food that you need, heat your home and buy the medicine that you need. And you know what? You can't do it.

Today in America, nearly 47 million people are living in poverty and over 20 percent of our children, including 36 percent of African American kids, are living in poverty -- the highest rate of childhood poverty of almost any nation on Earth. And what I want you to think about is why is it, in the wealthiest country in the history of the world, where we're seeing the proliferation of millionaires of billionaires, we have the highest rate of childhood poverty of almost any major country on Earth.

Today in America, 29 million Americans have no health insurance and even more are under-insured with outrageously high co-payments and deductibles. In other words, people do have insurance, but I talk to people every day; they've got a $5000 deductible, $8000 deductible -- they can't go to the doctor when they need.

And then on top of that, for a wide variety of reasons, our people pay the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs. And doctors tell me all of the time, "We prescribe something -- a medicine for our patients. They can't afford to fill that medicine -- that prescription." One out of five Americans cannot afford to fill the prescriptions their doctors write. What insanity is that?

Today in America, youth unemployment and underemployment is over 35 percent. For African American kids it is over 50 percent. Meanwhile, we have more people in jail than any other country. China -- communist, authoritarian country four times our size, we have more people in jail than China, and countless lives are being destroyed as we spend 80 billion dollars a year locking up our fellow Americans.

The bottom line is that today in America, we not only have massive wealth and income inequality, but a power structure built around that inequality which protects those who have the money. Today, a handful of super wealthy campaign contributors have enormous influence over the political process, while their lobbyists determine much of what goes on in Congress. And any member of the United States House or Senate who is prepared to tell you the truth will tell you exactly that.

Now, in 1944, in his State of the Union speech, President Roosevelt outlined what he called a Second Bill of Rights. You're all familiar with our Bill of Rights. And what Roosevelt outlined was what he called a Second Bill of Rights. This is, in my view, one of the more important speeches ever made by a President. But unfortunately, it has not gotten the attention that it deserves. So, I'm going to give it some attention today. [laughter]

In his remarkable speech, this is what Roosevelt stated, and I quote, "We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. Necessitous men" -- and we would add women -- "are not free men and women." In other words, real freedom must include economic security. That was Roosevelt's vision 70 years ago. It is my vision today. It is a vision that we have not yet achieved and it is time that we did. [applause]

In that speech, Roosevelt described the economic rights, r-i-g-h- t-s, rights that he believed every American was entitled to; the right to a decent job at decent pay, the right to adequate food, clothing and time off from work, the right for every business, large and small, to function in an atmosphere free from unfair competition and domination by monopolies, the right of all Americans to have a decent home and decent health care.

What Roosevelt was stating in 1944, what Martin Luther King, Jr. stated in similar terms 20 years later and what I believe today is that true freedom does not occur without economic security. People are not free; they're not truly free when they are unable to feed their family.

They are not truly free when they are unable to retire with dignity. They are not truly free when they are unemployed, underemployed or when they are exhausted by working 60, 70 hours a week. People are not truly free when they don't know how they're going to get medical help when they or a family member are sick.

So, let me take this opportunity to define for you simply and straightforwardly what democratic socialism means to me. It means building on what Franklin Delano Roosevelt said when he fought for guaranteed economic rights for all Americans, and it builds on what Martin Luther King, Jr. said in 1968 when he stated, and I quote, "This country has socialism for the rich and rugged individualism for the poor," end of quote. [applause]

My view of democratic socialism builds on the success of many other countries around the world who have done a far better job than we have in protecting the needs of their working families, their elderly citizens, their children, their sick and their poor. Democratic socialism means that we must reform a political system which is corrupt, that we must create an economy that works for all, not just the very wealthy.

Democratic socialism, to my mind, speaks through a system which, for example, during the 1980's, and I want you to hear this, allowed Wall Street to spend $5 billion over a 10-year period in lobbying and campaign contributions in order to get deregulated. They wanted the government off of their backs, they wanted to do whatever they wanted to do -- spent $5 billion over a 10-year period on lobbying and campaign contributions.

Then 10 years later, after their greed and recklessness and illegal behavior led to their collapse, what our system enabled them to do is to get bailed out by the United States government, which through Congress and the Fed, provided trillions of dollars in aid to Wall Street.

In other words, Wall Street used their wealth and power to get Congress to do their bidding for deregulation. And then when Wall Street collapsed, they used their wealth and power to get bailed out; quite a system. And then to add insult to injury, we were told that not only were the banks too big to fail, we were told that the bankers were too big to jail. [applause] And this is the system. Young people who get caught possessing marijuana, they get police records and many, many hundreds of thousands of them have received police records which have impacted their lives in very serious ways.

On the other hand, Wall Street CEOs who helped destroy the economy, they don't get police records; they get raises in their salaries. And this is what Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. meant when he talked about socialism for the rich and rugged individualism for everyone else.

In my view, it is time we had democratic socialism for working families, not just for Wall Street billionaires and large corporations. It means that we should not be providing welfare for corporations. It means that we should not be providing huge tax breaks for the wealthiest people in this country or trade policies which boost corporate profits while they result in workers losing their jobs.

It means that we create a government which works for all of the American people, not just powerful special interests. It means that economic rights must be an essential part of what America stands for. Among many other things, it means that health care should be a right of all people, not a privilege. [applause]

Now, I know that there are some people out there who think this is just an incredibly radical idea. Imagine, in the United States of America, all of us having health care as a right. But I hope all of you know this is not a radical idea; it is a conservative idea.

It is an idea and a practice that exists in every other major country on Earth, you know, not just in Scandinavia, in Denmark or Sweden or Finland or Norway; it exists in Canada. I live 50 miles away from Canada; not a radical idea. It exists in France, Germany, Taiwan. All over the world, countries have made the determination that all of their people are entitled to health care, and I believe the time is long overdue for the United States to join the rest of the world. [applause]

A Medicare-for-all single-payer program, which I support, would not only guarantee health care for all people, not only save middle class families and our entire nation significant sums of money -- because all of you should know that our health care system is by far the most expensive per capita of any system on Earth. But a Medicare- for-all single-payer program would radically improve the lives of all Americans and bring about significant improvements in our economy.

Think about it. People who get sick will not have to worry about paying a deductible or making a copayment. Radical idea; when they're sick, they can actually go to the doctor and not end up in the emergency room at a much greater expense to the system. Think about it. Business owners will not have to spend enormous amounts of time worrying about how they're going to provide health care for their employees.

Think about it -- and we don't talk about this very much; you've got millions of workers in this country who are staying on jobs -- in jobs which they do not want to stay in, but they're there because they have a decent health care program for themselves and their families.

Think what it means when young people or anybody else can say, "You know what? This is the job that I love. This is what I want to do and I'm going to go out and start this business or do this work and I don't have to worry about health care because all of us in America have health care." [applause]

And by the way, what a Medicare-for-all system will bring about is ending the absurdity of the American people paying by far the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs.

Now, when I talk about democratic socialism, what that means to me is that in the year 2015, a college degree today is equivalent to what a high school degree was 50 years ago. And what that means is that public education must today allow every person in this country who have -- has the ability, the qualifications and the desire the right to go to a public college or university tuition free. [applause]

Is this a radical socialistic idea? I don't think so. It exists in many countries all over the world. And you know what? It used to exist in the United States of America. We had great universities, like the University of California, the City University of New York, virtually tuition free.

Democratic socialism means that our government does everything it can to create a full employment economy. It makes far more sense to me to put millions of people back to work rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure than to have a real unemployment rate of almost 10 percent. It is far smarter to invest in jobs and educational opportunities for young people who are unemployed than to lock them up and invest in jails and incarceration. [applause]

Democratic socialism means that if somebody works 40 hours a week, that person should not be living in poverty; that we must raise the minimum wage to a living wage, 15 bucks an hour over the next several years. [applause]

It means that we join the rest of the world and pass the very strong paid family and medical leave legislation now sitting in Congress. [applause]

Now, I want you to think about this and I really -- I want you to see what goes on in our country today. It's not only that every other major country -- I'm not talking about Europe or Scandinavia; virtually every country in the world, poor country, small country, reached the conclusion that when a woman has a baby, she should not be forced to be separated from that newborn baby after a week or two and have to go back to work.

Making sure that moms and dads can stay home and get to love their babies is a family value that we should support. And that is why I want and will fight to end the absurdity of the United States being one of the only countries on Earth that does not guarantee at least three months of paid family and medical leave. [applause]

Democratic socialism to me means that we have government policy, strong government policy, which does not allow the greed and profiteering of the fossil fuel industry to destroy our environment and our planet. [applause]

And it means to me that we have a moral responsibility to combat climate change and leave this planet healthy and habitable for our kids and our grandchildren. [applause]

Democratic socialism means that in a democratic, civilized society, the wealthiest people and the largest corporations must pay their fair share of taxes. [applause]

Yes, innovation, entrepreneurship and business success should be rewarded, but greed for the sake of greed is not something that public policy should support. [applause]

It is not acceptable to me that in the last period of time, last two years, 15 of the wealthiest people in this country, 15 people, saw their wealth increase in this rigged economy by $170 billion. Got it? Two years, 15 people, $170 billion increase in their wealth; that is more wealth than is owned by the bottom 130 million Americans.

Let us not forget what Pope Francis has so eloquently stated, and I quote, "We have created new idols. The worship of the golden calf of old has found a new and heartless image in the cult of money and the dictatorship of an economy which is faceless and lacking any truly human goal," end of quote.

In other words...[applause]

We have got to do better than that. Not a political issue, it's not an economic issue; it is a cultural issue. We have got to stop worshiping people who make billions and billions and billions of dollars while we have the highest rate of childhood poverty of any major country.

It's not acceptable to me that major corporations stash their profits in the Cayman Islands and other tax havens to avoid paying $100 billion a year in taxes. It is not acceptable that hedge fund managers pay a lower effective tax rate than nurses or truck drivers.

It is not acceptable that billionaire families are able to leave virtually all of their wealth to their families without paying a reasonable estate tax. It is not acceptable that Wall Street speculators are able to gamble trillions of dollars in the derivatives market without paying a nickel in taxes on that speculation.

Democratic socialism to me does not just mean that we must create a nation of economic and social justice and environmental sanity. Of course, it does mean that, but it also means that we must create a vibrant democracy based on the principle of one person, one vote.

It is extremely sad, and I hope all of you will pay a lot of attention to this issue; it is extremely sad that the United States, one of the oldest, most stable democracies in the world, has one of the lowest voter turnouts of any major country and that millions of young people and working people have given up on the political process entirely.

In the last midterm election just a year ago, 63 percent of the American people didn't vote; 80 percent of young people did not vote.

Clearly, despite the efforts of many Republican governors who want to suppress the vote to make it harder for people of color and old people to participate in the political system, our job together is to make it easier for people to vote, not harder for people to vote. [applause]

It is not a radical idea, and I will fight for this as hard as I can as president, to say that everyone in this country who is 18 years of age or older is registered to vote, end of discussion. [applause]

So, the next time that you hear me attacked as a socialist, like tomorrow... [laughter]

Remember this: I don't believe government should take over, you know, the grocery store down the street or own the means of production. But I do believe that the middle class and the working families of this country who produce the wealth of this country deserve a decent standard of living and that their incomes should go up, not down.

I do believe in private companies that thrive and invest and grow in America, companies that create jobs here rather than companies that are shutting down in America and increasing their profits by exploiting low-wage labor abroad. [applause]

I believe that most Americans can pay lower taxes if hedge fund managers who make billions manipulating the marketplace finally start paying the taxes that they should.

I don't believe in special treatment for the top one percent, but I do believe in equal treatment for African Americans who are right to proclaim the moral principle that black lives matter. [applause]

I despise appeals to nativism and prejudice, a lot of which we have been hearing in recent months. And I do proudly believe in immigration reform... [applause]

That gives Hispanics and others a pathway to citizenship and a better life. [applause]

And while I'm on that subject, let me just say a real word of concern to what I've been hearing from some of the Republican candidates for president in recent months. People can have honest disagreements about immigration or about anything else; that's called democracy. But people should not be using the political process to inject racism into the debate. [applause]

And if Donald Trump and others who refer to Latinos as -- people from Mexico as criminals and rapists, if they want to open that door, our job is to shut that door and shut it tight. [applause]

This country has gone too far. Too many people have suffered and too many people have died for us to continue hearing racist words coming from major political leaders.

Now, I don't believe in some foreign ism, but I do believe in American idealism. And one of the pleasures, one of the real joys that I've experienced on this campaign so far, being here today with you and being all over the country, is seeing the huge numbers of young people who are coming out who want to make this country better, who want to use their intelligence and their energy to address the many problems that we have. So, I want to thank all of the young people, here and all over this country, for their idealism and do not, do not, do not become cynical.

I am not running for president because it is my turn; not quite. I was born in a three-and-a-half room apartment in a working class family in Brooklyn, New York. I don't think... [applause]

Oh, OK. So, I got Brooklyn, I got Vermont... [laughter]

And by the way, I visited California... [applause]

But in seriousness, it is not quite my turn; that's not why I'm running for president. But I am running for president in order for all of us to be able to [inaudible] have been carried into practice for unless there is security here at home there cannot be last peace -- lasting peace in the world, end quote.

Now, I am not running for president to pursue reckless adventures abroad but to rebuild America's strength at home. I will never hesitate to defend this nation, but I will never send our sons and daughters to war under false pretense or pretenses about dubious battles with no end in sight. [applause]

And as we discuss foreign policy, I know that all of you share with me your shock and your horror at what happened in Paris and you share with me your condolences for the families who lost loved ones and your hopes and prayers that those who were wounded will recover.

And also, those same thoughts go out to the families of those who lost loved ones in the Russian flight that we believe was taken down by an ISIS bomb and also those who lost their lives to terrorist attacks in Lebanon and elsewhere.

To my mind, it is clear that the United States must pursue policies to destroy the brutal and barbaric ISIS regime and to create conditions that prevent fanatical extremist ideologies from flourishing, but we cannot and should not do it alone.

Our response must begin with an understanding of past mistakes and missteps in our previous approaches to foreign policy. It begins with the acknowledgement that unilateral military action should be a last resort, not a first resort... [applause]

And that ill-conceived military decisions, such as the invasion of Iraq, can wreak far-reaching devastation and destabilization over regions for decades. [applause]

It begins with the reflection that the failed policy decisions of the past, rushing to war, regime change in Iraq or toppling Mohammed Mossadegh in Iran in 1953. Mossadegh was the president. CIA and others got rid of him to protect British petroleum interests.

The Shah of Iran came in, a brutal dictator, and he was thrown out by the Islamic revolution and that is where we are in Iran today. Decisions have consequences, often unintended consequences.

So, whether it was Saddam Hussein or Mossadegh or Guatemalan President Arbenz in 1954 in Guatemala, Brazilian President Goulart in 1964, Chilean President Allende in 1973, this type of regime change, this type of throwing -- overthrowing governments we may not like often does not work, often makes a bad and difficult decision even worse. These are lessons we must learn. [applause]

After World War II -- after World War II in response to the fear of Soviet aggression, European nations and the United States established NATO, the North American Treaty Organization, an organization based on shared interest and goals and the notion of a collective defense against a common enemy. It is my belief that we must expand on these ideals and solidify our commitments to work together to combat the global threat of terror.

We must create a new organization like NATO to confront the security threats of the 21st Century, an organization that emphasizes cooperation and collaboration to defeat the rise of violent extremism and, importantly, to address the root causes underlying these brutal acts. We must work with our NATO partners, we must work to expand the coalition with Russia, and we must work with members of the Arab League.

But let us be very clear. While the United States and other western nations have the strength of our militaries and our political systems, the fight against ISIS is a struggle for the soul of Islam and countering violent extremism, and destroying ISIS must be done primarily by Muslim nations with the strong support of their global partners. [applause]

Now, this has been my view long before Paris but I am very happy to tell you that these same sentiments have been echoed by people like Jordan's King Abdullah II in a speech just Sunday in which he said that terrorism is the greatest threat to our region -- the Gulf region, Middle East -- and that Muslims must lead the fight against it.

He noted that confronting extremism is both a regional and international responsibility and that it is incumbent on Muslim nations and communities to confront those who seek to hijack their societies and their religion with generations of intolerance and violent ideology.

And let me congratulate King Abdullah not only for his wise remarks, but also for the role that his small country is playing in attempting to address the horrific refugee crisis in that region. [applause]

A new and strong coalition -- coalition of western powers, Muslim nations and countries like Russia must come together in a strongly coordinated way to combat ISIS, to seal the borders that fighters are currently flowing across, to share counterterrorism intelligence, to turn off the spigot of terrorist financing and to end support for exploiting extremist ideologies.

Now, what does that mean? What it means is that, in many cases, we must ask more from those countries in the Gulf region. While Jordan, Turkey, Egypt and Lebanon, in their own ways, have accepted their responsibilities for taking in Syrian refugees, other countries in the region have done nothing or very little.

Equally important -- and this is a point that may make some people uncomfortable, but it is a point that must be made -- countries in the region, like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, the UAE -- countries of enormous wealth and resources have contributed far too little in the fight against ISIS. That must change. [applause]

King Abdullah is absolutely right when he says that the Muslim nations must lead the fight against ISIS and that includes and must include some of the most wealthy and powerful nations in the region who up to this point have done far too little.

Saudi Arabia, turns out, has the third largest defense budget in the world, yet instead of fighting ISIS, they are focused more on a campaign to oust Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen.

Kuwait, a country whose ruling family was restored to power by the United States driving Saddam Hussein's Iraq out of Kuwait, has been a well-known -- Kuwait -- people in Kuwait have been well known sources of financing for ISIS and other violent extremists.

It has been reported that Qatar will spend up to $200 billion on the 2022 World Cup, including the construction of an enormous number of facilities to host that event. $200 billion on hosting a soccer event, yet very little to fight ISIS. Worse still, it has been widely reported that the government there has not been vigilant in stemming the flow of terrorist financing and that Qatari individuals and organizations funnel money to some of the most extreme terrorist groups in the region.

All of this has got to change. Wealthy and powerful Muslim nations in the region can no longer sit on the sidelines and expect the United States, our young men and women and our taxpayers to do it for them. They have got to come up to the plate. [applause]

As we develop a strongly coordinated effort, we need a commitment from these countries that the fight against ISIS takes precedence over the religious and ideological differences that hamper the kind of cooperation we desperately need.

Further, we all understand that Bashar al-Assad, president of Syria, is a brutal dictator who has -- who has slaughtered many of his own people.

I am pleased that we saw last weekend diplomats from all over the world, known as the International Syria Support Group, set a timetable for a Syrian-led political transition with an open and fair election. These are the promising beginnings of a collective effort to end the bloodshed and move toward a political transition in Syria.

The diplomatic plan for Assad's transition from power is a good step in a united front, but our major priority must be to defeat ISIS. Nations all over the world who share a common interest in protecting themselves against international terrorism must make the destruction of ISIS the highest priority. Nations in the region must commit that instead of turning a blind eye, they will commit their resources to preventing the free flow of terrorist finances and fighters to Syria and Iraq.

We need a commitment that they will counter the violent rhetoric that fuels terrorism rhetoric that often occurs within their very borders. This is the model which we must pursue in order to address the global threats that we face.

While individual nations obviously have historic disputes -- the United States and Russia now have very strong differences of opinion on some very serious issues, Iran and Saudi Arabia, to put it mildly, do not like each other. [laughter]

But the time is now to do everything possible to put aside those differences to work toward a common goal of destroying ISIS. Sadly, as we have seen recently, no country is immune from attacks by the violent organization called ISIS. Thus, we must work with our partners in Europe, the Gulf region, Africa and Southeast Asia, all along the way, asking the hard questions, whether their actions are serving our unified purpose.

The bottom line is that ISIS must be destroyed but it cannot be defeated by the United States alone. A new and effective coalition must be formed with the Muslim nations leading the effort on the ground while the United States and other major forces provide the support they need.

Let me conclude by once again thanking all of you for being here today. All across this country there is a significant alienation from the political process. People look to Washington and they throw their hands up and they said what in God's name is going on there? Why aren't our senators and our congressmen paying attention to our needs? Why aren't we developing a rational foreign policy rather than talking again about getting involved in a quagmire in the Middle East which could lead to perpetual warfare?

So let me conclude just by saying this. The problems that we face as a nation are indeed very, very serious. I talked -- I've talked on some. There's a lot we haven't even touched upon.

But, by and large, all of these problems were caused by bad human decisions and, if we come together, if we stand together, if we do not allow ourselves to be divided up by race, by whether we're gay or whether we're straight, whether we're born in America, we weren't born in America, whether a male or a female, if we stand together and if we focus on how we can create sane foreign policy, how we can rebuild the middle class, how we can combat climate change, how we can create a nation in which we end racism and homophobia, if we are prepared to do that -- if you, as young people are prepared to engage in the political process, I have no doubt that there is nothing, nothing, nothing that together we cannot accomplish.

Thank you all very much. [applause]

MODERATOR: All right. Senator, again, we can't thank you enough for being here today and we've -- the Institute of Politics and Public Service invited all the major presidential candidates. I think it's a testament to your vision that you were the first to accept our invitation. Thank you for being here. [applause]

And it's clear you have a lot of friends in this room.

Let's get right into it. We received a lot of questions from students as they were waiting in line in -- in the rain this morning, and you covered a lot of ground. Not surprisingly, so do the questions, and the questions are -- are very good.

Now, I'm not editing any of these questions. I am going to group some of them together though where they were on a common theme.

So let's begin with the central premise, at least of the first part of your remarks, and that was a discussion of democratic socialism. I think your remarks -- you did a very good job of describing what it means to you but as you know, Senator, there's a lot of confusion just around the word.

Robert France, a freshman from Brooklyn who specifically asked me to shout out Brooklyn, right there, asks, you know, why do you chose to identify as a socialist when it seems in your platforms you are more in the middle of the spectrum between capitalism and socialism?

Well, Axel Kayak, a freshman from Paris, France, in the School of Foreign Service, says in France there's no problem with the word socialist. Considering myself a socialist, I feel like the cultural and historical pressure pushes you to call yourself a democratic socialist, although I can't see the difference between the two.

So these two questions alone show some of the differences in -- in -- in how people view the word and you. I'm wondering if you would comment to that and maybe discuss that confusion and -- and -- and clarify it just a little bit?

SANDERS: I -- I think the reason that I have always throughout my political career, going way back when I was mayor of Burlington, defined myself as a democratic socialist is that that, in fact, is my vision. And my vision is not just making modest changes around the edge. It is transforming American society to make it into a much more vibrant democracy and an economy which works much, must better for working families.

And by the word socialism, what is implicit in that to me is that it is imperative that if we are serious about change -- and a lot of people want change -- but at the end of the day, real change does not take place unless we have the courage to take on the very powerful special interests that control our country.

Now, that's my view. Not everybody here may agree with me and certainly most people in Congress would not. But I think at the end of the day, what we have got to recognize is not just that we are experiencing mass income and wealth inequality or declining middle class, but that a small number of people have extraordinary power. And if we are not prepared to take them on and to tell them that they cannot run the government for their own interests, the real change that many of us want will never take place.

So when I use the word socialist -- and I know some people aren't comfortable about it -- I say that it is imperative that we create a political revolution, that millions of people get involved in the political process and that we create a government that works for all, not just the few. [applause]

MODERATOR: Staying on this topic for at least one more question, David Alzate, a -- a sophomore in the school of Foreign Service from Quito, Ecuador, writes -- points out that Margaret Thatcher once said socialists always run out of other people's money. My question is how will your policies promote wealth creation to ensure their long-term sustainability rather than simply depend on the redistribution of existing wealth?

SANDERS: Well, for a start, David, given the fact that we have seen trillions of dollars being transferred in the last 30 years from the middle class to the top one-tenth of 1 percent, we start from a position that there is already a lot of money out there.

And that is an important point that has to be made. You know, we're not a poor country. We are the wealthiest country in the history of the world, and we should be doing a lot better for our working people, should not be having 47 million people living in poverty. But how do you create wealth? Of course wealth is -- has to be created. And one of the points that I made in my remarks -- let me give you one example of it. I believe that we significantly strengthen our economy by having a Medicare-for-all single-payer system which will free millions of people to get involved in creating businesses and in creating jobs who today are trapped at work only because they get the health insurance that that employer is now providing.

I think that if you have a trade policy not designed by corporate America to shut down plants in America and move abroad, but a trade policy which works for the American worker, you can create over a period of years millions of decent paying jobs.

I believe that when you raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour, it's not only the right thing to do but, as Roosevelt talked about in the 1930's, when you put money -- disposable income into the hands of people today who have no disposal income, they will then take that money, spend it and create jobs.

So I think the policies that I am advocating will, in fact, create wealth, will strengthen the economy. These are diametrically opposed, an opposite, to this trickle-down economic theory that says if we give tax breaks to billionaires at Wall Street, somehow or another that will benefit the middle class and the poor. History has been very clear. That is a false doctrine; it hasn't worked. [applause]

MODERATOR: I think I'd probably be run off campus if I didn't move to this topic next. And it's one that you touched on in your remarks. And that is the cost of college tuition.

Julia Friedman, a freshman from Albuquerque, New Mexico, asks under your plan to reduce the cost of college, will the tax on Wall Street speculation be sufficient to cover the cost of the plan?

And Zachary Shropfer, a freshman in the business school from Tallahassee, writes as many of us know, one of your main policies is to make all public universities tuition free. In the United States many of the greatest universities are private universities -- Georgetown. [laughter]

So how to you plan to combat the high prices of private universities?

SANDERS: Good, excellent questions.

For a start, the answer to the first question is, yes, the legislation that I've introduced does a number of things. It makes public colleges and universities tuition free. It also addresses the very significant crisis in this country of millions of people paying very high interest rates on their student debt. And I suspect some of you guys are going to be graduating here deeply in debt. I see at least one person there. [laughter]

I suspect there are many more. All right?

So the -- the -- what we do are two things, all right? Public colleges, universities, tuition free, and then what we also say is that it is a little bit crazy that today you have many people out there who are paying interest rates on their student debt of six, eight, 10 percent when we can refinance our homes at three or four percent.

So what our legislation does is allow people the ability and the freedom to get the lowest possible interest rates on their debt that they can get. And that will save people all over this country collectively many, many billions of dollars.

Now, if you add those two features together, free tuition at public colleagues, universities, substantially lowering interest rates on student debt, it is an expensive proposition. It costs about $70 billion a year. And yes, it can be paid for by a tax on Wall Street speculation.

All right, second point about private universities. Of course, we know that Georgetown and -- and many other private universities do an extraordinary job and we're all proud of the quality of education they provide. Our legislation includes substantially increasing Pell Grants to make sure that working class and lower income families, middle class families can get the help they need if they choose to send their kids here to Georgetown or Harvard or any place else.

We also significantly increase work student -- student work programs so that universities can have funds available to -- to employ students on campus. So your point is well taken. Our legislation also makes private colleges and universities less expensive. [applause]

MODERATOR: Let's move to the second portion of your speech.

Molly Coil, a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences from Denver, asks with your strong beliefs in pacifism, how would you address the recent and escalating violence of ISIS? Does being a democratic socialist state entail opening borders to Syrian and other refugees?

And Peter Abdo, a freshman in the college from Bethesda, asks given recent attacks by ISIS worldwide, more generally how will you ensure the safety of the American people?

SANDERS: OK. First of all, let me respond to the first question and -- you know, and -- and I have a lot of respect for people who may be pacifists; I am not a pacifist.

What, in fact, I voted for -- I voted against the very first Gulf war, which I had to vote on about -- within the first month that I was elected to Congress. I think history will record that as the right vote. And then in 2002, after listening to Bush and Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, and listening carefully to what they had to say, I concluded that they were not telling the truth and I voted against the war in Iraq. [applause]

But I did vote for the war in Afghanistan because I thought that Osama bin Laden should be held accountable and I did vote for President Clinton's effort to end the ethnic cleansing in Kosovo. So no, I am not a pacifist. I think that war should be the last resort, but we have the strongest military on Earth and, of course, we should be prepared to use it when it is necessary.

In terms of where we are right now, I think the main point that I try to make in my remarks is I think it would be a terrible mistake for many, many reasons for the United States virtually unilaterally to get involved in the war in Syria or reinvolved in the war in Iraq.

And the nightmare is that we send our troops in there in combat, they come back in caskets. We send more troops in, a plane gets shot down. We send more planes in, and 20 or 30 years from how we're still talking about how we get out of the quagmire in that region of the world.

I agree very, very strongly with King Abdullah who is absolutely right. What is going on there is a struggle for the soul of Islam. There are millions and millions and millions of Muslims who detest and are disgusted with what ISIS and other extremist groups are doing. But now they are going to have to get into the process. It is their troops that are going to be on the ground. We should be supportive, and I support President Obama's efforts with airstrikes, with Special Forces. But the leadership must come from the Muslim nations.

In terms of how we protect our country, obviously, we have got to be super vigilant against terrorist attacks. I know there's a lot of discussion about refugees. Let me say a word on that. I am not happy to hear what I have heard in recent days about people who are talking about going into or maybe closing down mosques in America. I'm not happy about hearing that we should close our borders to men, women and children who have been displaced, driven out of their homes because of terrorism.

And I believe that, yes, after thorough screening, which we have the capability of doing, working with the rest of the world, we should accept refugees from that region. That's the moral thing to do and accepting refugees is what America has always done and I think it's improper to turn our back on these people now. [applause]

MODERATOR: The next couple of questions grouped together come from something that I think created a lot of buzz that you said in the -- in the debates. And it's about climate change and, specifically, its link to terror and terrorism.

Jonathan Amen, a freshman in the business school from Port Orange, Florida, and Bryce Couch, a freshman in the school of Foreign Service from Texas, both asked very similar questions about can you elaborate on the link between...

SANDERS: Absolutely.

MODERATOR: ... the two and what's your plan to address both?

SANDERS: Absolutely.

Look. Obviously, as I hope I made clear this afternoon, organizations like ISIS, terrorist organizations, are a major threat. They have got to be destroyed. But if you look into the future -- this is not Bernie Sanders -- this is the CIA, this is Defense Department, this is countries all over the world, this is what they are saying. If we do not get our act together, if there is more drought around the world, if there is more flooding, if there are more extreme weather disturbances, if sea levels continue to rise and flood coastal regions, there will be a massive displacement of people.

People need water; people need land to grow their crops. And if they do not have that land and water, they're going to migrate and they're going to be in competition with other peoples for limited natural resources. And when that happens, according to the CIA, according to our own Defense Department, that lays the groundwork for international conflict.

So in my view, it is not debatable. Of course, climate change is a major, major inducement to international -- international conflict and also to terrorism. For example, right now in Syria as a result of a sustained drought, people have left the rural areas, flooded into the cities, causing more instability and becoming people who could succumb to extremist propaganda. Massive instability in Syria.

So what we have to do -- and by the way, you know, when I was your age, the challenge of my generation was civil rights. And all over this country -- and I was involved when I was at the University of Chicago -- but young people stood up and they said you know what? We're going to end segregation in America. And those of us who were northern schools helped out financially, our brothers and sisters fighting in the south were getting their heads busted open and we did what we could where we were.

My guess among many other issues that are out there, one of your great challenges today continue the fight against racism and sexism and homophobia. But also understand that we are fighting for the future of the planet and if we do not move aggressively -- I'm on the energy committee in the Senate and the environmental committee. I've talked to scientists all over the world and what they are telling us is we have a small window of opportunity to transform our energy system away from fossil fuel into energy efficiency and sustainable energy.

We need to take on the fossil fuel industry who are looking at short term profits ahead of the future of this planet. And I hope you will be involved in that effort to transform our energy system. [applause]

MODERATOR: Senator, I know you have to leave momentarily and so I want to close with one last grouping here, and I think it's an important one because it gets very much at the whole notion of why our institute exists and one of the big points you brought up at the conclusion of your remarks, and that's how do we get this done?

Ari Shapiro, a sophomore in the School of Foreign Service, says with a -- or asks with a Republican majority in both houses, would you be willing to compromise some of your ideals to get your most important plans passed.

And Kameel Asom, a freshman from San Francisco, writes my question is how do you plan on implementing your social programs given the immense opposition in Congress?

SANDERS: OK, great questions.

Look, when you are in Congress, by definition, you compromise every day. And you all should know that when I was in the House of Representatives -- I was there for 16 years -- on certain years, I ended up getting more amendments passed on the floor of the House than any other member of Congress because when there was an issue out there that I could work with Republicans on, and they were in the majority, we put together a pretty good coalition.

Just two years ago, I worked as chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs. I worked with people like -- Republicans like John McCain in the Senate and people like Congressman Jeff Miller over in the House who's chairman of the Veterans Committee there, to put together the most comprehensive veterans' health care bill passed in recent memory.

So yes, I can compromise. But here is the point that I want to make. On many of the issues that I have talked about, virtually all of them, these are not radical extremist ideas. I am not coming before the American people and saying look, I am this radical wild- eyed socialist, crazy ideas but listen to me. You know, that's not the issue.

Look at the issues. We want to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour, raising the minimum wage widely popular. I want to create 13 million jobs by rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure, wildly popular. Pay equity for women workers, wildly popular. Making -- there it is, popular idea, all right. [laughter]

Making public colleges and universities tuition free and lowering student debt, widely popular. Combating climate change. There are some Republicans who still don't accept it but most Americans do. All right? Asking the rich to start paying their fair share of taxes, vast majority of the Americans think that that's right.

So here's my point, here's my point. The real question is sure, you've got to compromise, but the really more important point is why is Congress so far out of touch with where the American people are at? The Republican agenda is among other things to cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, and give huge tax breaks to billionaires and to ignore the planetary crisis of climate change.

How many people believe in that agenda? I don't know, five percent, 10 percent. Surely a very small minority of people. So when I talk about the political revolution, when I talk about transforming American politics, what I am talking about is bringing in the voices of millions and millions of people who have given up on the political process, to have their views and their needs being heard by Congress. When that happens, everything that I talked about will be passed.

If that does not happen, virtually nothing will be passed. So what this campaign from my perspective is about -- and I say this in every speech that I give -- it's not just electing Bernie Sanders to be president, I surely would appreciate your support. [laughter]

But very honestly, it is much more than that because no president, not Bernie Sanders or anybody else, can implement the kinds of changes we need in this country unless millions of people begin to stand up and fight back. And I think right here on college campuses all over this country, we're beginning to see that fight back, we're beginning to see that fight back among low-wage workers. We're going out into the streets and saying you know what, we can't make it on $8 or $9 an hour. Raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour.

We are beginning to see that movement develop and I hope you will be part of that movement because if you are, we can, in fact, transform this country.

Thank you all very much. [applause]

Bernie Sanders, Remarks at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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