[Sen. Bernie Sanders speaking in California at the Cubberley Community Center Pavilion. | Photo Credit: Getty Images] Also Read - International Flights: Here Are 7 Foreign Airlines That Have Resumed Air Travel Amid COVID-19

India West

By: Giovanni Albanese Jr, special to India West Staff Also Read - Raksha Bandhan 2020: China Suffers Massive Loss of Rs 4,000 Crore This Year; Here's Why

PALO ALTO, Calif. — The Asian American and Pacific Islander communities — including members of the Indian American community — came in droves to the Cubberley Community Center Pavilion to support Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-Vt., in advance of the June 7 primary. Also Read - Coronavirus: Over 50K Cases For 5th Straight Day, Total Tally Crosses 18 Lakh-Mark, Death Toll Reaches 38,135 | Key Points

Dozens of men and women, young and old, filed into the pavilion for a special panel discussion with AAPI leaders and the Vermont senator before they all headed out to the Cubberley Community Center field for a public rally for the candidate who hopes to leapfrog over Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Eagerly awaiting Sanders’ arrival amidst the hundreds in attendance was Rocky Aroda, of Cupertino, Calif.

“The current politics seems to be something that warrants further research,” he told India-West, adding he has never registered and voted to this point. “Bernie Sanders is morally clean. There’s not much in his history that looks wrong.”

From his research, which began as “open and unbiased,” he became a “strong, strong Bernie supporter.”

Added Bangladeshi American Sanders supporter Zakia Afrin, of Newark, Calif., “I’ve been in this country for 15 years and this is the first time I felt a politician is making me feel I belong in this society.”

Others, like Vinay Joshi, of San Jose, came to understand what Sanders’ campaign is all about.

“I don’t know a lot about Bernie and where he stands,” Joshi told India-West. “I’m really eager to hear what he has to say.”

Sanders entered into the pavilion from a side entrance, flanked by Secret Service agents, and the packed house rose to their feet and began snapping photos and chanting, “Bernie, Bernie, Bernie.”

The presidential hopeful gave an appreciative wave to the crowd and sat in his seat next to the panelists, who included Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii; Jane Sandoval of National Nurses United, Aparna Shah of Mobilize the Immigrant, and Timothy Liu.

Gabbard, Liu, Sandoval and Shah, sitting against a backdrop of the American and California flags as well as a banner that read, “Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders for Bernie,” provided anecdotes from their lives prior to asking the senator to speak on various topics; the audience was then allowed to ask questions.

Among the issues Sanders covered in the panel discussion were foreign policy, the climate crisis, health care and immigration reform.

Speaking on foreign policy, Sanders explained that one of the main differences between himself and Clinton is their stance on the war.

“We must all be mindful that war is the last response, not the first response,” Sanders said to overwhelming cheer.

He concluded his take on foreign policy by saying, “The United States will be seen as a friend of poor people throughout the world.”

Following Liu’s question on climate change, Sanders, who stressed that it is real and human-made, said this is the great global environmental crisis.

“If we do not get our act together very, very soon … a dangerous situation will become much, much worse,” he stated. “There will be more national conflict as people fight for national resources.”

He added, “Anyone who chooses to bury their head in the sand and not face this reality is doing an enormous disservice to our children, their children, and future generations.”

Sanders summed up by saying short-term profits aren’t greater than the future of the country.

Shifting to healthcare, in response to a Sandoval question, Sanders said that, while Obamacare has been somewhat effective, it’s not perfect.

He said that inordinate amounts of money are being wasted in a “dysfunctional healthcare system,” with pharmaceutical companies “ripping off” every American.

“Healthcare is a right for all people, not a privilege,” Sanders said. “We are going to move toward a Medicare for all.

Regarding immigration reform, Sanders stressed that, if elected president, “I will end” deportation policies, which he declared are all “wrong.”

“Diversity is a strength and something we should be proud of,” Sanders added. “We should unite families, not divide them.”

Sanders added the importance of adding a comprehensive immigration reform for the roughly 11 million undocumented citizens in the country.

“If Congress does not do its job to repair a broken immigration reform system, I will use the executive powers of the presidency to do everything that I can,” he promised.

The response following the panel by the AAPI community, especially South Asians and Indian Americans, were overwhelmingly positive.

“It’s invigorating. It’s exciting to hear Sen. Sanders articulate his points of view on a variety of topics,” said Sajid Khan, a nonpartisan voter from San Jose. “I think he speaks to us and he can speak to the minority experience being a son of immigrants himself. I think he understands what it is like to be in our shoes,” he told India-West.

Atef Ghori, of Palo Alto, felt the panel was great and that Sanders really spoke to the crowd.

“I think he was focused on issues that are relevant to Asian American and Pacific Islanders,” he said. “Issues of race relations, income and equity, gentrification, that are prevalent in society that aren’t addressed normally, that Sen. Sanders addresses more than other candidates.”

San Ramon, Calif., resident Susmita Nayak added that she is “Feeling the Bern,” especially after the one-hour forum touching on several important issues for AAPI people.

“That was so awesome and so lively,” she said of the 74-year-old senator’s delivery, adding this rally with a Q&A session was better than a previous rally held in Stockton, Calif. “We believe that he’s the strongest candidate (for president). He’s the only future we can believe in and he has all the things we need for our next president,” she told India-West.

Following the forum, Sanders shook hands and took a few photos with the guests before ducking out to head to the Cubberley Community Center field where thousands of Bay Area residents had been waiting hours to hear the senator speak.

The rally began with Rep. Gabbard livening up the crowd as Sanders, in the blistering heat on a Wednesday afternoon, parlayed his campaign stances for roughly 40 minutes.

Sanders’ stop in Palo Alto was one of many he’s making throughout the state in advance of the crucial primary election between himself and Clinton.

This story was originally published on India West.