by Elijah Rakha-Sheketoff

As America by Simon and Garfunkel waves over the crowd, I wonder how on earth I got so lucky. Not only am I an upper middle class, cisgendered, white man, who grew up in a loving, supportive family, but I am listening to one of my favorite songs by one of my favorite artists, and I am about to see my candidate for president tell me, and the people of Salem, once again how we can change the world, making it a more compassionate, better place for all.

Politics has flowed through my veins since the moment blood started pumping. Some of my first memories are from Portland peace rallies when before I could even talk I would make my voice heard by pounding on a Wizard of OZ cookie tin. In preschool, I got my entire class to cast their symbolic ballot for Kerry—a unanimous liberal vote (albeit from four-year-olds) from a notoriously conservative town. My is life filled with these moments, flocking to events that both challenge me intellectually, and ones where I can feel a part of something bigger. So being at a Bernie rally, and having press access to take pictures from the podium, was, for me, shangri-la; as it was for many young voters at the rally.

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Brandon Roth, 18, instinctively blurted out “Compassion” as the word that best describes Bernie, while his classmate Colin Gesik replied “caring”. Mark Mulder’s, 18 reasoning resonated via nod’s from those around him—it also had the nice attribute of fitting on a bumper sticker—“he’s my candidate,” he said. I will always remember the first time I actually sat down and heard Senator Sanders speak; it was in August at his first Oregon rally held at the Moda Center (a corporate rename that stood as a powerful irony to the workers power that the senator is fighting for), and that day my eyes filled with tears; It wasn’t until I heard Bernie speak that day, that I felt hope for our future.

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People often ask me why I am supporting Bernie. The answer is simple. I believe that everybody, regardless of their sexual orientation, their race, their gender, their country of origin, their wealth, their geography, their sexuality, their past mistakes, their religion, their political beliefs, or any of the hundreds of other labels that people have been and still are discriminated against over the years deserves basic civil rights, and equal opportunity to not just survive, but to thrive, and move this country forward.

Looking around at the audience I saw all those different people. I saw diversity. Bernie said tonight that, “diversity is what makes this country great,” and while we all came from different backgrounds,  it was clear that we had all gone to look for America, and the found it in him.

Elijah Rakha-Sheketoff is a 16-year-old life long resident of Silverton where he is a sophomore in high school. He is heavily involved in Speech and Debate as well as his school theater program. His passion is for philosophy, particularly postmodernism, and hopes to study philosophy and journalism in college.