I am thrilled to be inside and also excited to meet the campaign staff and volunteers and learn about the production of the rallies. Over the past few months, the campaign rallies have been attracting large crowds with standing room only and require many volunteers to help with all the logistics.
We check in with the campaign, sign in to volunteer, and immediately are provided roles to help with the rally. As the long line is forming outside the Reno Convention center, the volunteers are inside preparing sign-in tables, signs, and other logistics for the event. There is a table with Bernie Sanders campaign items for sales including shirts, buttons, stickers, and pins. The volunteers are all wearing these items and volunteer credentials and the people outside are dressed in ski parkas, gloves, and warm snow hats.
It has already been a busy day for Bernie, the volunteers, and limited campaign staff. As Bernie meets with union leaders, seniors, and rural voters, the volunteers are critical to support this event and the necessary follow-up after the rally.48
Before we know it, the long line wraps all around the building, and we can see people waiting in line rubbing their hands together and stomping their feet to ward off the chill. Finally, the doors open and people stream inside into the warm convention center from the cold. Inside the convention center, all the volunteers line up as greeters and we begin to cheer for the people as they enter the building. We cheer “feel the Bern, feel the Bern” and “Bernie Sanders, Bernie Sanders” to welcome everyone to come in and find a seat. It is so exciting and feels more like a sports event with the fans for the home team entering the stadium.
Very quickly all the seats in the auditorium are filled, and the crowd continues to gather standing behind and around the seated audience. The venue is sold out, stretched beyond capacity, with all the seats taken and hundreds of people gathering in standing room areas. Behind the stage, people are selected to stand behind Bernie to represent his diverse support and enthusiasm for his message.
We wait patiently and listen to the uplifting “music of the revolution” that plays at all Bernie Sanders campaign rallies. Everyone is warming up not only from the cold outside but also with growing energy and anticipation for Bernie's arrival. Behind the stage, there is a banner with a clear message “A Future to Believe In” and “BernieSanders.com.” People are standing behind the podium holding signs displaying the same consistent message. Finally, the program is ready to begin. The speakers include volunteers, a nurse, and local campaign leaders to welcome and thank the crowd for coming to support Bernie and urging everyone to volunteer to help spread the word. These short speeches warm up the crowd that is already highly energized and enthusiastic cheering loudly with every speaker.
Cheers and shouts for “Bernie, Bernie, Bernie” are rewarded as he finally approaches the podium, takes the microphone, waves to the standing ovation of the full capacity crowd and says “Whoa! There's a lot of people here. Are you all ready to make a revolution? You have come to the right place.”
I am thrilled! I feel so energized, proud, and thankful to be here.
Bernie immediately begins his now familiar speech, prompting applause, standing ovations, and cheers. The more the crowd cheers, the more Bernie captures the energy from the crowd and delivers his message focused on issues and for a future to believe in. As I listen and look at others in the crowd, I know that I am a part of something special.
The power of the crowd is kinetic and propels Bernie as he gathers more energy to articulate his message. Bernie has been on his feet all day, speaking at local events, meeting with union leaders, seniors, volunteers organizers, and potential voters, but appears to be just warming up. After standing up and cheering for Bernie for this entire time, I would like to sit down but know that I will not stop cheering for Bernie. I realize that Bernie has a source of energy that propels his message and powers the audience in return. And, Bernie is just warming up! I bet he could talk about these issues all day and all night! I realize that not only is Bernie a great leader, but also he has incredible stamina. For all of us in the audience, this is just the beginning. Bernie has been speaking all day in Reno, all year across America, and for many decades delivering his message.
As the speech reaches its conclusion, most of the cheering crowd of 2,000 people in the audience rush to the stage to try to get closer to Bernie, take a photo, and shake his hand. I head in the opposite direction and follow the other volunteers to the back of the room. Before the rally, the campaign told us that we might get a chance to meet Bernie briefly in a brief private meeting.
As the volunteers line up to enter the room, I am near the front and am one of the first to meet Bernie Sanders. I shake his hand, thank him for his service, and snap a quick “selfie photo.” I notice that his coat and tie are well worn and that he does not have any security, only a few members of his campaign support staff.
Bernie gathers us together with a short speech and asks us to do more to help the campaign. He tells the group of volunteers that we must do more. It is not about Bernie Sanders; it is about us. The political revolution requires millions of Americans to stand up and say “enough is enough.” Bernie is asking me to do more. Bernie tells us that he has been making speeches, recruiting volunteers, and getting out the vote for more than 40 years, but it is not about him, it is about us. As he speaks, he points his finger at us, and then directly at me. As I look at Bernie and look in his eyes, for the first time, I truly feel the Bern.
I. Feel. The. Bern.
This moment changed my life. I realize that I must do much, much more. I have the skills, energy, passion, and experience. And, Bernie needs my help. Our children need me to help elect Bernie Sanders for their future. Our country needs me to do more.
I know that I will do more, but I do not know what to do next.
After the short speech to the volunteers, Bernie steps forward to join the volunteers for a group photo. I am standing shoulder-to-shoulder next to Bernie surrounded by all the other volunteers.
Then, Bernie rushes out of the room, exiting out a back door. I follow him to catch another glimpse but am too slow as he jumps into a waiting car to drive to the next venue, another speaking event at a local restaurant.
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