Written by: Leigh-Ana Mumford

Leigh-Ana Mumford is a junior political science major whose favorite political candidate is Bernie Sanders. So when Sanders finally came to Florida for a political rally, Mumford knew that she could not miss the event.

I was afforded a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity on March 6, 2016. My friend Alina and I ventured to the James L. Knight Center in downtown Miami in hopes of seeing democratic presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders. We were excited about just being there at the rally, so when we were chosen to stand behind Senator Sanders during his speech, I almost combusted. It took us less than a second to shout, “yes,” in excitement. We were told that we would be required to stand for at least two hours, but our focus was on seeing Sanders up close, so two hours of standing did not bother us at all. A lot of thoughts were going through my mind while I anticipated seeing and showing my support for Sanders, the most deafening one being that I was going to be a part of an amazing era in modern politics with a politician who is truly campaigning for the people. While I stood there, my eyes skimmed over the crowd, and I realized that there were so many young people chatting away, all eager to see Senator Sanders. I was already sweating from my anxiety to see Sanders, and at, one point, I even thought, “Was this what it meant to feel the ‘Bern’?”

I have heard Sander’s rhetoric about taking down Wall Street and rebuilding the middle class through the radio and on TV. However, hearing it while standing less than fifty feet away from him made the words more meaningful. His words surged through my body and left me with shivers. I could close my eyes and be swept away by his speech; it felt like he was standing right beside me because I felt every word. The passion behind the speech and the response of the audience invigorated my love for politics. After every impressive point he made, the crowd roared in affirmation. My hands were sore from clapping, which I didn’t realize until the adrenaline finally left my body.

Most contemporary politicians lack this sense of passion, so being in the presence of such a genuine politician like Senator Sanders gave me newfound hope in American politics. If I was the emotional type, I probably would have cried, but even then, there were a few moments when I felt my throat tightening from trying to fight the tears. Sanders mesmerized me because I am a black woman, and the current racial relations have disheartened my thoughts about the political and justice systems. Supporting a politician such as Senator Sanders, who has a long track-record in supporting human rights, including his involvement in the Civil Rights Movement, was done without hesitation. Although he is in his 70’s, his aura appeals to the youths, and standing there right behind him, I experienced that attraction first-hand. Standing there made me realize that I was standing behind a political anomaly, one that maybe this generation will never witness again.

As a part of the new generation of politicians and political scientists, I believe the integration of the youth into civil society is key for the perpetuation of a well-oiled democracy. Hearing that some of the youths choose not to vote based on not knowing anything about politics or just hating the current state of it, is discouraging. Senator Sanders reminded me that I am the future, and I will be affected by the long-term outcomes of policies. In order for there to be change in the system, I know that I have to get involved and make it greatly known that we will not preserve the status quo that includes economic inequality and corporate-bought politicians.

After I left the Bernie rally, I sat there and thought that I have the choice to take control. I also felt like I had just finished running an emotional marathon. I have the choice to support politicians who I think will have a positive impact on me. I don’t have to sit back and let corporate-bought politicians make decisions for me. Truthfully, Senator Sanders could be selling car insurance, and I would still be blown away by his passion. He’s that amazing to me.

Hearing Bernie Sanders give his speech re-affirmed all those feelings for me, and I finally understood what it meant to “feel the Bern.” The most insightful part of my experience was that I realized that “feeling the Bern” was more than Bernie Sanders; it was about embracing politics and feeling motivated to vote.

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