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Sanders Creates Political Storm at Liberty University

By: Elizabeth Dean

Political candidate and senator, Bernie Sanders, spoke at Liberty University’s convocation in early September, creating a disconcerting response from the media and students.

Sanders, a Jew and atheist, spoke at the largest Christian university in the world on Sept. 14, creating uproar. Many people, especially Sanders supporters, were looking forward to hearing what he was going to say. However, the response of the students is what shocked people the most.

“Yes, we are a liberal arts school, by definition isn’t just one thing and we need to broaden our view. In the real world other people don’t agree with us and it gives us a chance to filter what other people say and what we believe; good exposure to that. How can we disagree with someone if we don’t know what they think?” said student, Tanner Cooke.

Liberty University has always asked leaders with opposing viewpoints to speak at convocation, however Sanders has been the first person to accept that invitation. Many of the students believe that it is good for them to hear different sides of things because that is how it is in the real world. Students at that convocation realized that and were respectful in how they reacted to Sanders speech.

The media that wrote articles about this situation did not portray Liberty University in the way that they ought to have been portrayed.

“They received an accurate representation but didn’t portray it. They saw that we are respectful of other people’s views,” said student Cassie Gagon.

Many of the mainstream news companies wrote articles or did broadcast stories about this event:

Many media outlets present saw this calm reaction from the students but then saw the more avid Sanders supporters at the front of the arena and were confused. Liberty University convocation is open to the public and many of Sanders supporters from the surrounding areas came to hear him speak. Majority of these supporters sat in the front sections of the arena, closest to the stage. This gave the appearance “on television [that] it was the Liberty University students that were cheering for Sanders, not his supporters,” said Gagon. This created a lot of confusion among the press and people who watched the speech on television.

Sanders was also respectful in his approach to the students in return. However, many students did not appreciate his out-of-context use of Scripture to back up the things he was saying. Students believe that made them less receptive to what Sanders was saying because as one student said, “We’re smart enough to know that he’s taking it out of context to appeal to us.”