Why Bernie? Why now? People share their reasons to hear Bernie Sanders

Why Bernie? Why now? People share their reasons to hear Bernie Sanders
Crowds cheer as Bernie Sanders cmes on stage at his book signing/talk at the Charleston Municipal Auditorium, Sunday, Feb. 12, 2017. By Nancy Andrews

Sen. Bernie Sanders addresses the crowd at the Charleston Municipal Auditorium on Sunday, Feb. 12, 2017.

It was a sellout, according to Dan Carlisle, manager of Taylor Books in Charleston. All 2200 tickets to the lower level at the Charleston Municipal Auditorium were purchased days in advance for $27 each. “We low balled it. We could have sold more,” he said of the speech for Sen. Bernie Sanders’ “Our Revolution,” where ticket purchases also came with a copy of the book.   For Carlisle, the high attendance was simple, “People are wounded. People want somebody to talk to them,” he said. We roamed the crowd to find out why people attended.

Anna Grueser, left, and Emily Metzer

Anna Grueser, 30, is a merchandising manager who works in Parkersburg, West Virginia and lives in Athens, Ohio. She’s at the event with Emily Metz, 25 of Dunbar, West Virginia.

Grueser: Just people turning out – if enough people are resisting it still sends a message. Bernie is still fighting – fighting for the environment, education and civil rights. He’s still a Senator. He’s still doing legislation and speaking in the Senate.

Lissa Lucas, left, and Mary Ann Claytor, right, were among the crowd at the Bernie Sanders rally before the event.

Lissa Lucas, of Ritchie County, West Virginia is a social media manager and blogger.

Lucas: Find the things you agree on instead of the things you disagree. I have a friend who voted for Trump and I think it was a terrible choice, but I still love my friend. I don’t blame them that they didn’t see the things I saw.

Mary Ann Claytor ran as a Democrat for the West Virginia state auditor in 2017. She lives in St. Albans, West Virginia and works in accounting.

Claytor: I just think it’s time we try to unite people. Bernie Sanders represents getting people’s voices heard.

Bill Howes and Lynn Sowers

Lynn Sowers, 58, Dental Hygienist and Bill “Bambo” Howes, 65, retired construction superintendent, traveled four hours from Elizabethton, Tennessee.

Sowers: I wanted to hear Bernie Sanders speak because he has inspired me with his message, ‘it’s up to us.’ I also like that he’s out here, talking and doing — trying to improve our government – he didn’t walk away from it.

Howes: I wanted to hear Bernie Sanders speak because he’s a unique voice of truth in American politics. He says things that seem obvious that nobody else talks about – that kids should be able to have healthcare and go to school.

Jason Von Kundra

Jason Von Kundra, 28, is a farm manager from Meadowview, Virginia.

Von Kundra: Our democratic system has failed us, so I am here to hear from Bernie Sanders as he continues to build a political alternative to our broken system. I think it’s especially important for me to be here from rural Appalachia. Our working class struggles here in rural communities are the same struggles that people of color face in the urban communities. As a farmer, I live in a community that’s down stream from the coalfields and water is essential to all life. We can’t live without it. We rely on the land – we need industry, we need jobs and we need to respect that dependence on the land.

Justin Richmond-Decker

Justin Richmond-Decker, 26, is a software engineer in Green Bank, West Virginia.

Richmond-Decker: I want to hear his perspective and how he suggests we proceed during these times. A lot of Americans, especially younger Americans, are struggling to deal with the new administration. We all want to do what we need to do to help.

Neil Perin, wearing the hat, showed up at 11 a.m. for the evening event. Lauren Miller, right, got her place in line at  2 p.m. to get a front row seat.

Neil Perin, 33, is a farmer from Athens, Ohio. Perin was among the first in line, arriving more than eight hours before the start of the event. Why did he feel the need to attend the event?

Perin: A sense of duty, patriotism and passion to engage in the political and social revolution as I am able, and to add my voice.

Lauren Miller, 34, is a doctor in Ashland, Kentucky. She lives in Huntington, West Virginia. Miller is very concerned about the Affordable Care Act.

Miller: When you get defeated, you need your battery re-charged. Bernie reminds us why it’s important to keep fighting. He’s reminding you to call and write. It’s easy to call up the people you voted for. But, you’ve also got to call the people you didn’t vote for.


In ‘100 Days, 100 Voices’ Nancy Andrews presents photographs depicting the diversity of voices across Appalachia. These portraits strive to show the varied faces, passions, issues and opinions from around the region. These interviews have been edited for brevity and clarity. If you have an idea for ‘100 Days, 100 Voices’ please contact Nancy Andrews on Twitter @NancyAndrews or email at nancy.andrews [at] mail.wvu.edu.

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