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A supporter films Bernie Sanders on his phone during Sanders’ speech. Sanders visited Ames on May 4 to talk about his campaign for presidency and his slogan “Not me. Us.” He will also stop by Perry, Fort Dodge and Sioux City.

I was a senior in high school four years ago when Bernie Sanders came to speak to my class. I remember asking him, “how can you accomplish all of these things without worsening the national debt?” His response? 

“Good question, we will get it done by taxing Wall Street and the one percent.” I thought it was a bad answer at the time and considered his ideas well intentioned, but extreme. However, the last four years of my life have shown me that Bernie’s vision is not just achievable, but also extremely brave.

What made me change my ideologies the past four years? How did I go from calling Bernie an extremist to volunteering for his campaign? First of all, I finally received a pathway to citizenship after being undocumented for eighteen years (which is an opportunity that very few people get- but that’s a whole other story). I remember feeling so ecstatic and blessed to have such a unique and life changing opportunity, but it came at a huge cost- my college savings. The government and attorney fees consumed all of my savings, and I had to leave college for the time being. 

I’m sure that student debt is a concept all too familiar for the average college student. Many in our generation will not be able to buy a house, a car or even start a family all because monthly student loan payments drag down savings while piling up interest payments. An education should not be a debt sentence.

Secondly, I learned the hard way that being healthy comes with an enormous price tag. I had never been able to afford insurance, so I avoided going to the doctor’s office as much as I could, until one day I had no choice but to go to the emergency room. What was the cost of one overnight stay? $6,000. After saving up my money to return to college, it was once again consumed, and this time it was by the healthcare system. However, this price tag is low compared to many other people in our country. We are all one car accident away from bankruptcy. 

All of this, and many other things, allowed me to see the appeal of Bernie’s vision. Senator Sanders’ bravery must be acknowledged. He is on a world-wide stage and is acknowledging the corruption in Washington’s puppet politicians as well as the greed of the insurance companies and big pharma. These individuals are arguably the most powerful people in the nation, if not the world, and Senator Sanders is exposing them on a world stage so the American people can vote for policies that help us, not the rich and powerful. 

The importance of voting can not be emphasized enough. Everyone is affected, either directly or indirectly, by the policies of our elected officials.

Yes, your vote matters. If it did not matter, why would people like me wait decades and pay thousands of dollars to be able to cast a ballot on election day? 

Bernie Sanders will be on campus 2 p.m. Sunday at the Hansen Agriculture Student Learning Center. This is your opportunity to hear from Senator Sanders himself! 

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