Political activist Dr. Cornel West speaking to event goers at a Bernie Sanders' Town Hall on Tuesday.

Political activist Dr. Cornel West speaks to event-goers at a Bernie Sanders' Town Hall on Tuesday.

OSKALOOSA – While Senator Bernie Sanders was preparing for Tuesday night's debate in Des Moines, a campaign team was in Oskaloosa hosting a Town Hall event at William Penn University.

Harvard University Professor and political activist Dr. Cornel West spoke at the event Tuesday evening. Dr. West, determined to keep the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr alive, has been an avid supporter of Sen. Sanders since 2015 when he ran in the 2016 Presidential election.

During the town hall on Tuesday, Dr. West addressed a crowd of approximately 50 people saying that he works so hard to get Sanders elected because he accepts the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

“The reason why I spend as much time as I do with my dear 'brother' Bernie Sanders is precisely because in my views, he accepts the legacy of Martin Luther King,” he said. “Martin Luther King said there is always a fourfold criterion of understanding how one proceeds in trying to change this country.”

Dr. West went on to say that the United States is experiencing a 'spiritual crisis' and what he likes about Sanders' campaign is that he recognizes that it's not just about the politics and policy points.

“What I like about Bernie's campaign is it’s not just about politics, not just about economics, not just about the corporate media who think it’s a matter of policy,” he said. “No, no, no this country and experiencing a profound spiritual crisis, which is a relative collapse of integrity, honesty, decency, generosity, and empathy.”

Dr. West encouraged event-goers to be more participative in upholding the democracy by “getting in the funk”, recognizing that we can all learn something from one another, and finding their voice regardless of what backlash you could get. Dr. West said that is what Sanders is all about, he has found his voice.

“I'm cutting against the grain, I’m in the world and not of it. I don't mind being cast aside, I don't mind undergoing character assassination, I am taking a stand, and this is my voice,” he said. “Is it popular? Who cares, I'm not in it for popularity. I'm in it for integrity. That’s all about Brother Bernie. He's a human being like anybody else. He’s not a God, he’s not a deity, but he finds his voice and He's consistent. He's worked with Jane Austen called 'constancy'.”

For the first time last week, Sen. Sanders' campaign lead polls in Iowa. According to USAToday, a Des Moines Register/CNN/Mediacom Iowa Poll showed 20% of likely caucus-goers would choose Sanders as their first choice for president. Dr. Cornel spoke briefly about the polls saying that up until now the other campaigns have not looked at Sanders as a threat, but now he is coming back in the polls and things will change.

“Believe me, you wait for another month and a half to two months. Oh, it’s going to be a very, very different public conversation going on,” he said. “They’ve been trying to render brother Bernie relatively invisible and now he’s coming back in the polls. I don’t believe a lot of these polls anyway, because when you all hit the ground they polls are going to reflect. At that point, it’s going to be on, I’m telling you it will be intense.”

Many of the event-goers said they were still undecided on who they would vote for and some said they had other candidates in mind, but really liked Sen. Sanders. Local Democrat Trish Fagen said although she is a Warren supporter, she really like Bernie too and wanted to hear what Dr. West had to say.

“I really like Bernie too and with the last election and everything, he's so consistent,” Fagen said. “He really is for the people, I think he's really authentic. I just like all of his ideas and, certainly, if he wins the caucus and goes on I would vote for him, for sure.”

With only three weeks standing in the way of the highly anticipated Iowa Caucus, Oskaloosa residents have seen their fair share of presidential candidates over the past year. Since April 2019, Elizabeth Warren, Sen. Bernie Sanders, Steven Bullock, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, former Vice President Joe Biden, and Andrew Yang have all made appearances in Oskaloosa.

Biden and, now, the Sanders campaign both have hosted town halls at William Penn University to rally in support from students and the community. WPU's Director of Residence Life Heidi Scholes encourages everyone to come out to WPU to take advantage of the opportunities that come with hearing from the different speakers, or candidates.

“I encourage everybody to take advantage of all the speakers that come to William Penn like this,” she said. “It's a great opportunity just for the community to get involved and here lots of different people with different perspectives speak.”

Tiffany McDaniel can be reached by phone at (641) 660–9659, by email at tmcdaniel@oskyherald.com or on Twitter @tmcdaniel_osky.

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