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Bernie Sanders talks to Naperville students about ‘Political Revolution’

Judging by the amount of audience participation during Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presentation Wednesday to Naperville students, the “Political Revolution” the 2016 presidential candidate writes of in his latest book could be catching hold.

Students from Naperville Central and Naperville North high schools eagerly raised their hands to answer questions Sanders posed as he explained how politics affects teens and why it’s vital to get involved.

A few among the crowd of hundreds enrolled in government classes even got to direct their queries to Sanders as he visited their hometown for the second time in a year.

The visit was organized by Anderson’s Bookshop, which hosted Sanders to speak about his new book, “Bernie Sanders Guide to Political Revolution.” Anderson’s also welcomed Sanders last November to North Central College in Naperville shortly after the presidential election.

“I worry very much about the state of American democracy, which is why we wrote this book,” Sanders said about the release, which is based on his 2016 book “Our Revolution.” “The essence of this book is that we need to revitalize American democracy.”

In the context of world history, Sanders called democracy a new idea and a “fairly radical” one. But he challenged students to accept the dark side as well as the positives of the nation’s collective history, asking them who originally was left out when the American governing system was founded.

One by one, Sanders chose students out of the auditorium to stand up and answer: “Women,” “African-Americans,” “American Indians” and “Non-land owners.”

“The struggle of American Democracy has been to become a more encompassing democracy, to involve more and more people,” Sanders told the students. “And none of that happened by accident. It happened because people stood up and struggled and fought to make that happen.”

Sanders promoted his bottom-up philosophy of change and told the crowd that for every bill a president signs, there have been millions developing its premise, researching its merits and advocating for or against it. He advised students to learn about national issues by putting the topics into their own terms.

Economics to a high school student means how much their after-school jobs will pay, how much it will cost to go to college, what kind of careers will be available after graduation, Sanders said. Health care to a high school student means how much their parents must pay to take them to the doctor or how they’ll get emergency care if they suffer an injury.

It’s illogical to feel passionately about an issue — such as the environment, social justice, women’s rights, LGBT rights or the minimum wage — and not get involved politically, he said. Because politics is “how you implement your feelings into public policy.”

Naperville Central junior Laaiba Mahmood asked Sanders how a Muslim girl like herself can remain involved in politics despite the presence across the country of deep divisions, visible hate and a sense of fear.

Sanders told her and her peers to stay strong because the vast majority “don’t hold hate in their hearts.”

“I found it really special that I got to raise my own voice here and raise my issues to Sen. Sanders,” she said.

For fellow Naperville Central junior Jonah Klein-Collins, Sanders’ visit was a chance to see a national political personality live instead of on TV and to watch his fellow students react.

Sanders spoke at Naperville Central before a public appearance scheduled to take place Wednesday evening at the Paramount Theatre in Aurora.

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