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Bernie Sanders Fires Up Supporters In New Hampshire

Herb Swanson
Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks to over 750 people at the Opera House in Littleton, New Hampshire on Monday, including an overflow crowd watching on outdoor screens.

Bernie Sanders has been drawing large crowds to his campaign events and Monday night’s jam-packed rally at the Littleton Opera House was no exception.

On the warm night, campaign workers passed out Bernie stickers and bottled water to hundreds waiting in a long line more than an hour before the doors open at the historic Littleton Opera House. Many chatted with each other about why they were turning out, writing checks, and wearing buttons urging others to "Feel the Bern."

Leo Lavoie and his mother Fran, from Littleton, were near the front. Fran said she hopes to hear solutions to pressing problems from a man whose career she has followed since he was mayor of Burlington.

“I have faith in him,” she said. “I think he’s an honest person insofar as a politician can be honest.”

Leo, in his fifties, believes Sanders will fight poverty and help rebuild the middle class.

“And it’s hard in this economy to get ahead. Prices keep rising, wages don’t, his message about a livable wage really hits home with me,” he said.

As jazzy music played through loud speakers, there was thunderous applause as Sanders strode on stage. It was his third north country rally of the day, and he seemed buoyed by the crowd.

Credit Herb Swanson /
Supporters at a primary campaign rally in Littleton, New Hampshire wave signs as they wait for candidate Bernie Sanders to make a speech.

Introduced by his son Levi, who lives in Claremont, New Hampshire, Sanders spoke for an hour and a half, rarely looking at notes. He repeated his core message about income inequality like a refrain, linking many other social issues.

“There is something profoundly wrong when one family, the Walton family of Walmart — one family — owns as much wealth as the bottom 40 percent of the American people,” Sanders proclaimed, in one of many variations on that David and Goliath theme.

This mostly white audience cheered loudly when Sanders talked about battling unemployment that disproportionately affects minority youth, and about racism lurking within the criminal justice system. Even wilder applause erupted for campaign finance reform, better media coverage of serious issues, tuition-free public college, equal pay for women, reproductive rights and civil rights for the LGBT community.

Lincoln Robertson left the rally feeling that it was well worth a drive from Milan New Hampshire, almost 60 miles away. His wife and two kids came, too. Robertson, a school teacher, was especially struck by the statistic about Sam Walton's wealth, in contrast to average Americans.

Credit Herb Swanson /
Lincoln Robertson, of Milan, New Hampshire, explains why he wants to see Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders become President. Robertson and over 700 others attended a speech Sanders gave at the Opera House in Littleton, New Hampshire on August 24.

“It’s wrong that one family owns more than the entire bottom 40 percent, and I guess I didn’t realize the number was that big for the bottom,”  he said.

For Robertson’s wife, Heather Piche, women’s issues stand out, as she explained, smiling down at their 14-year-old daughter Amira.

What matters most to her?

“That my daughter will have control over her own body,” she said.

“I didn’t get the own-body thing. What were they talking about?” asked Amira.

“We’ll go a little more in-depth afterward,” her mother answered. “Yeah, we got a lot of talking to do,” she added.

Judging from the lively conversation spilling out of the opera house and onto the street, there will be plenty more talk about Bernie Sanders as his campaign rolls into other states. According to the latest poll, he is leading Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire, 44 points to 37.

Charlotte Albright lives in Lyndonville and currently works in the Office of Communication at Dartmouth College. She was a VPR reporter from 2012 - 2015, covering the Upper Valley and the Northeast Kingdom. Prior to that she freelanced for VPR for several years.
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