BFA Students Reflect on Bernie Sanders’s Town Hall

Student Town Hall with Bernie Sanders
Photo credit:

Student Town Hall with Bernie Sanders Photo credit:

Rachel Ledoux, Editor

On Nov. 18 2022, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders visited Bellows Free Academy to conduct a Town Hall with students.

According to Principal Brett Blanchard, Sanders’s team reached out to the BFA administration to schedule it after speaking with students at the Veteran’s Day parade and being impressed with many of them. 

The Town Hall took place during 6th period, and consisted of several segments; Sanders giving a brief introductory speech, Sanders asking students questions and Sanders finally opening up the floor to answer questions from students. Discussions topics ranged from unions to the Queen’s death, to reproductive rights. The event then concluded as the bells rang for period 7, and Sanders departed. 

As students walked to their next classes, however, not all discussion of the event was positive. As Cooper O’Connell (‘25) said in his Mercury opinion piece, “I would advise the administration to think long and hard before they were to welcome Bernie Sanders back to the school again.” 

The Mercury released a survey to the student body to gather opinions on the event and how students felt in the aftermath. Of the 14 respondents, only one felt that it was an excellent experience and rated it five out of five stars: Jakob Birnbaum (‘23).

“[I was] excited to see Bernie and to ask him serious questions that relate to my big issues,” Birnbaum said.

Among the other responses, ratings were split between one and four stars. Some students shared positive feedback surrounding the behavior of BFA students.

“I was surprised at how respectful our students were,” Quinn Stanley (‘23) said. “I was definitely nervous that people might be rude or purposely ask silly questions, but I thought everyone who contributed by asking or answering questions w[as] very respectful.”

Some students also appreciated the variety of subjects Sanders covered during the Town Hall.

“Sanders covered a large variety of subject material in a short period of time, and students were generally respectful,” Jack Sparr (‘23) said.

There were also a few common complaints, mainly in regard to Sanders’s behavior during the Town Hall. Several students felt that the event had been rushed.

“He was rushing through a lot of the questions, probably because of time,” River Dalley (‘23) said. “He was cutting a lot of students off while they were talking.”

Other students expressed distaste for some of the ideas expressed during the Town Hall.

“[I’m] not a big fan of Bernie’s thoughts/ideas,” Colin Tourville (’24), who rated the event one out of five stars, said.

 A few students also expressed a desire to have asked more questions or covered more subjects.

“I wish people were actually able to ask questions, similar to a real Town Hall, rather than having the whole thing ‘structured,’” Penelope Noza (‘24) said.

Despite these issues, however, of the students surveyed, 50% (seven students) said they would want to attend another town hall, and 35.7% (five students) said that they would possibly be open to attending another. 

“I thought it was nice of Bernie to swing by BFA to have such a down-to-earth conversation with Vermont’s youth,” Dalley said. “That type of intimacy often isn’t in politics, so it was nice to experience.”