Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders took the stage of the Democratic National Convention Monday, closing an historic long-shot campaign for the White House. Vermont’s delegates had an emotional evening as their home-state champion urged unity behind Hillary Clinton.
The first night of the Democratic National Convention was littered with high-profile speakers: First Lady Michelle Obama, Senator Cory Booker, and Senator Elizabeth Warren. But it was the last speaker of the evening that many were waiting to hear.
Fourteen months after kicking off his campaign in Burlington, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders took the stage in Philadelphia to an extended ovation.
As Sanders stood at the podium some delegates sobbed. Vermont delegate Anthony Iarrapino is attending his first national political convention. “It was incredibly emotional and the place was really electric. People were just I think very grateful that Bernie Sanders was there at all given how the deck is really stacked against candidates like Bernie Sanders. I think there was a lot of grateful energy towards Bernie but I also think there was tremendous amount of bittersweet emotion that he was there speaking on Monday night to support Hillary Clinton rather than on Thursday night to accept the nomination to be our next president.”
Vermont Democratic Party spokesman Conor Casey is also attending his first national convention. “It was an emotional moment because you put so much of your heart and soul into these races. Prior in the day Bernie had addressed his pledged delegates and had asked for their support for Secretary Clinton. And I think at that moment it was very clear that the Secretary will be our nominee for the Democratic party. And you know it’s a bit of a transition. And it’s a recognition that we’re stronger together going forward.”
Senator Sanders outlined to supporters why he believes it’s crucial that the party unite and his victorious Democratic rival be elected president. “I understand that many people here in this convention hall and around the country are disappointed about the final results of the nominating process. I think it’s fair to say that no one is more disappointed than I am. Together my friends we have begun a political revolution to transform America, and that revolution, our revolution continues.”
Iarrapino, a staunch Sanders supporter, sat on the DNC’s Rules Committee. He says Sanders has made the Democratic Party more progressive. “There is a lot of healing that needs to happen. But I also think people need to realize that because of the success of Bernie Sanders’ political revolution there are new people coming onto the Democratic National Committee who are Bernie Sanders’ people. And so the days of the old Democratic National Committee as an exclusive club of the elite are over. And the days where it is responsive to people and the political revolution that the Bernie Sanders campaign is helping happen, those days are ahead of us and I’m focusing on what’s ahead now.”
Vermont delegate Arshad Hasan is attending his third national convention. Hasan says emotions were very high on the convention floor Monday night. Although many are disappointed that their candidate did not achieve the nomination, he has no doubt that most will follow Sanders’ advice and support Secretary Clinton. “The stakes are so high when we talk about Donald Trump. But really all the way up and down the ballot I think it’s important that we show up. We are talking about voting for the future of all of us. So I want to be able to take this energy and I want it to be something that we use to build something greater. What Bernie decides to do in terms of the energy that he has, how he decides to use that, can have an enormous effect down to a foundational level of the Democratic Party and progressive politics in this country. We could really build something great here.”
All of Vermont’s elected delegates will cast their vote for Sanders during the first nominating ballot.
The Democratic delegates were scheduled to conduct the official roll call to select their presidential nominee on Tuesday.