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  • U.S. Presidential Candidate and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders speaks at a rally in New York.

    U.S. Presidential Candidate and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders speaks at a rally in New York. | Photo: Reuters

Published 2 March 2019

"I did not come from a family that taught me to build a corporate empire through housing discrimination," Sanders said. "I protested housing discrimination."

The United States senator from Vermont, Bernie Sanders, will be competing to be the Democratic presidential contender in the 2020 elections. On Saturday he showed a more personal side, describing the struggles as working-class youth and how it helped shape his progressive politics.

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On Saturday, Sanders held a rally in Brooklyn, the New York City neighborhood where he grew up in a small, rent-controlled apartment. He contrasted his upbringing with far-right Republican President Donald Trump’s privileged youth as the son of a New York real estate developer.

"I did not come from a family that taught me to build a corporate empire through housing discrimination," he said. "I protested housing discrimination."

The campaign kickoff rally was held at Brooklyn College, where Sanders went to school. He stated that his "experience as a kid, living in a family that struggled economically, powerfully influenced my life and my values."

"Unlike Donald Trump, who shut down the government and left 800,000 federal employees without income to pay the bills, I know what it’s like to be in a family that lives paycheck to paycheck," he said. The congressman talked about his policies, backing universal health coverage, programs that guarantee employment, an hourly minimum wage of $15, increase in pensions, construction of social housing and free public universities, among other plans.

Sanders is kicking off his campaign with important differences from his 2016 run for the White House, then, he rarely talked about his personal history. In 2016, he ran against eventual Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. In that campaign, he focused almost exclusively on his policy plans to rein in Wall Street and reduce income inequality.

"As we launch this campaign for president, you deserve to know where I come from — because family history heavily influences the values that we adopt as adults," Sanders told his cheering supporters, in Brooklyn.

But the new approach for Sanders, the son of a Jewish immigrant from Poland, was a recognition of the need to find a way to stand out in a crowded and diverse field of 2020 Democratic contenders, including five of his fellow senators.

Sanders also did not highlight his Jewish faith during his 2016 run. But in Brooklyn, he described his father’s journey to escape poverty and anti-Semitism. He spoke about how his father’s family eventually was “virtually wiped out” by the Nazis.

"Today, I want to welcome you to a campaign which says, loudly and clearly, that the underlying principles of our government will not be greed, hatred, and lies." 

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