FULTON, Mo.–Former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders (I-VT) quoted former Republican President Dwight Eisenhower’s 1961 warning about the “Military-Industrial Complex” during a lecture Thursday morning before about 1,300 people at historic Westminster College in Fulton.
The Vermont Senator delivered the 58th Annual Green Foundation Lecture at Westminster, as dozens of others who couldn’t get tickets stood outside in the 90-degree heat under a tent and listened on a PA system.
Sanders, who narrowly lost the 2016 Democratic Presidential nomination to Hillary Clinton, is the longest-serving independent member of Congress in American history.
Security was tight at the event, with Fulton Police, Callaway County Sheriff ‘s deputies and Missouri Highway Patrol troopers on-hand. Fulton Police Chief Steve Myers tells Missourinet FBI agents were also on the Westminster campus.
Eisenhower served as President from 1953 to January 1961. During his farewell address, Eisenhower warned against the “Military-Industrial Complex.”
Today, Sanders says he agrees with Eisenhower.
During his approximately 50-minute lecture at Westminster’s Champ Auditorium, Sanders also addressed issues ranging from North Korea to Iran to Russia to wealth inequity in the United States.
Winston Churchill delivered his famous “Iron Curtain” speech on the Westminster campus in 1946.
Senator Sanders discussed that speech on Thursday, saying he wants a world of peace, with decent education and housing.
“Dialogue and debate are far more preferable to bombs and poison gas,” he says.
He also emphasizes the importance of diplomacy regarding North Korea and Iran.
Sanders applauds the Iran nuclear deal and warns the United States should not try to change it. He says former President Barack Obama (D) “showed real leadership and real power”, and says the agreement was reached without the loss of life.
He also discussed North Korea, saying the United States should consider tightening sanctions. He emphasizes that the United States should not work on the issue alone, but should work with China and other members of “the international community.” Sanders describes North Korea as a “shared problem.”
Senator Sanders also blasts the Iraq war, saying thousands of Americans have been killed or wounded in that war, which began in 2003.
Sanders is critical of past U.S. government decisions that he says put American security at risk.
For instance, he says that in 1953, the United States supported the overthrow of the democratically elected President of Iran, who was replaced by the Shah of Iran. Sanders says the Shah’s regime was oppressive, and notes he was deposed in the 1979 revolution that brought Ayatollah Khomeini to power.
Sanders asks he crowd to think about what Iran would be like today had the U.S. government not supported that 1953 overthrow. Sanders alleges the overthrow was done at the request of Western oil companies.
While Sanders spent most of his speech criticizing U.S. policy, he praises the 1948 Marshall Plan, which was spearheaded by then-President Harry Truman (D) of Missouri.
Sanders notes that after World War I, the allies punished Germany. Some say the conditions in the early 1930s helped bring Hitler to power.
After World War II, Sanders says that instead of punishing and humiliating the war’s losers, the United States pushed the Marshall Plan to help rebuild Germany and other Western economies. The cost at that time was more than $13 billion. Sanders says that’s the equivalent to about $130 billion today. The aim was to rebuild the war-devastated areas and prevent the spread of communism.
Sanders describes the Marshall Plan as an “extraordinary success.” He says Germany is now a strong democracy and economic power.
The Vermont Senator also addressed climate change and income inequality.
“Friends, it’s time to get serious about climate change,” Sanders says, as the audience cheered.
He says it’s a foreign policy and a national security issue, and says climate change is caused by human activity.
Sanders says the “top one percent” own too much, adding that thousands of children around the world die from easily prevented diseases.
He also condemns white supremacy, saying “there are no two sides on that.”
Other Green Foundation lecturers at Westminster have included President Gerald Ford (1977), Vice President George Herbert Walker Bush (1986) and former U.S.S.R. President Mikhail Gorbachev (1992).
Senator Sanders did not hold a media availability at Westminster, so reporters were unable to ask him questions.
One question some have is whether Sanders will run for President again in 2020. He did not address that during today’s speech.