Topic overview

The overall topic of the commencement address “Bernie Sanders to Brooklyn College Graduates: Don’t ‘Allow Demagogues to Divide Us’ ” is inequality in US society.

The speech focuses mostly on economic inequality, with the speaker using several data and statistics which show that “43 million Americans live in poverty” (l. 46) and that “the top 1/10 of 1% now owns almost as much wealth as the bottom 90%” (ll. 37-38).

Through such statistics, Bernie Sanders explores income inequality and argues that the US is turning into an oligarchy: “Directly related to the oligarchic economy that we currently have is an oligarchic and corrupt political system which is undermining American democracy.” (ll. 56-54)

Sanders looks at how income inequality is directly related to political leaders who pass laws that often favour the rich and discriminate against the poor: “The very rich get much richer and they get huge tax cuts. The middle class shrinks and the poor struggle…” (ll. 64-65)

Apart from economic inequality, the speaker also explores the inequality caused by discrimination, arguing that politicians can try to divide people “by race, by religion, by national origin, by gender or sexual orientation.” (ll. 26-28)

At the same time, discrimination is also visible in the criminal justice system, which results in the US having “more people in jail than any other country - disproportionately black, Latino and Native American.” (ll. 51-52)

At the end of the speech, Sanders defends social programs for the poor and asks the audience to continue to fight for them as a way to deal with the issue of inequality in American society.


The speech follows a clear structure. First, Bernie Sanders introduces himself and the topic. He then explores different aspects of the topic of inequality and ends by suggesting some solutions to the issues he explores.


The informal title of the commencement speech is “Bernie Sanders to Brooklyn College Graduates: Don’t ‘Allow Demagogues to Divide Us’ ”.

However, people in the live audience did not need the explanatory title. They would have known that the speech is a commencement address, namely a speech delivered to graduating students, generally at a university ceremony. Knowing that Bernie Sanders’ speech will open their graduation ceremony, the live audience probably expec...

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