With the stated mission of "revitalizing our democracy," Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Jane O'Meara Sanders are hosting a gathering of 250 progressive thinkers, politicians, and activists this weekend in Burlington, Vermont, where they'll discuss bold solutions to persistent inequality, the climate crisis, human rights violations, and other issues in the U.S. and around the world.
The inaugural Sanders Institute Gathering—which Common Dreams plans to cover over the three days—will include panel discussions and speeches including an opening keynote speech given by the senator on Thursday evening, as well as appearances by author Naomi Klein and Cornel West; politicians such as Rep. Tulsi Gabbard and San Juan mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz; economists Stephanie Kelton and Jeffrey Sachs; former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis; U.S. labor leaders Roseann DeMoro and Peter Knowlton; organizers Bill McKibben and Nina Turner; and many others.
"The core intent of the Sanders Institute Gathering is to share replicable policies, develop actionable steps, establish ongoing networks and articulate a progressive vision," the Institute shared on the event website. "Economic, environmental, racial and social justice issues will be threaded throughout the conference as we discuss the climate crisis, healthcare, housing, democracy, foreign policy, criminal justice, labor issues, and more."
"We believe that a vital democracy requires an informed electorate, civil discourse, and bold progressive ideas." —Jane O'Meara Sanders
Panel discussion topics will include "How We Win Medicare for All" as well as a conversation about financing the increasingly popular program, the Green New Deal, chronic injustice in the criminal justice system, and America's housing crisis.
On the heels of their joint venture to craft an International New Deal aimed at countering the emerging alliance of powerful, nationalist right-wing extremists, Varoufakis will join Sanders along with several other speakers at an International Round Table on Friday to discuss solutions to economic inequality around the world.
"We're seeing authoritarian leaders come in and throw away the norms of a democracy like the free press or individual rights," Jane Sanders told local CBS affiliate station WCAX. "And we need to have voices out there everywhere, saying, 'No, this is not okay,' and this is what we need to fight for instead of always just hearing political back and forth, electoral issues, and what we're against. We're going to be talking about what we're for."
The Gathering comes as Sanders' potential 2020 presidential campaign has appeared increasingly likely, with the senator saying at George Washington University this week that he is "thinking about" running and telling New York magazine, "If it turns out that I am the best candidate to beat Donald Trump, then I will probably run."
However, as Jane Sanders told WCAX, the Gathering "won't have anything to do with Bernie's campaign."
"We are focused on policies," Sanders said. "We believe that a vital democracy requires an informed electorate, civil discourse, and bold progressive ideas. So that's what we're trying to do: engage people in finding solutions to economic, environmental, racial, and social justice issues."