Evan Santiago

(Rock Hill, S.C.) — Vermont senator and 2020 Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders met with supporters last month at Winthrop University, as South Carolina’s first in the South primary looms Feb. 29.

The appearance at the school’s outdoor amphitheater Sept. 20, came about 10 days before Sanders was admitted to a Las Vegas hospital after suffering a heart attack.

Sanders told the crowd at Winthrop that young people, especially college students, are not politically active enough to bring about changes in government.

“(Voting) is your responsibility as American citizens,” Sanders told the crowd. “It’s a responsibility that was given to you by people who fought and died so that you have a right to control this country.”

Former Ohio state Sen. Nina Turner, who is co-chair of the Sanders campaign, and actor Danny Glover, also spoke on the candidate’s behalf and urged those in attendance to get involved.

Turner told supporters that Sanders is a man of integrity who has funded his campaign through donations from “real people” and not special interest groups.

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Former Ohio state Sen. Nina Turner, who is co-chair of the Sanders campaign, spoke on the candidate’s behalf and urged those in attendance to get involved (photo: Evan Santiago).

“(Sanders) doesn’t go have fundraisers with multi-millionaires and billionaires and say to them that nothing is fundamentally going to change,” Turner said. “If nothing fundamentally changes for multi-millionaires and billionaires, then nothing fundamentally changes for you (in attendance).”

She said the country needs a president “whose only special interest is the American people,” which produced one of several standing ovations during the rally.

“Whether it is workers’ rights and labor unions, whether it is civil rights, whether it is women’s rights, whether it is gay rights, whether it is environmental justice; the only way that change ever takes place is when millions of people stand up and demand it,” said Sanders.

The Winthrop visit was part of a three-day college tour intended to mobilize the youth vote, which included stops at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Sept. 19; Bennett College in Greensboro, N.C. Sept. 20; and Benedict College in Columbia, S.C. and South Carolina State University Sept. 21.

“It’s very important for (candidates) to go to colleges and universities, because the future of this generation, the future of the United States, lies in the hands of college students who are now eligible to vote,” said Kiki Toddman, a political science major at Winthrop.

The latest Winthrop Poll, released Oct. 1, showed Sanders (8 percent) trailing former Vice President Joe Biden (37 percent) and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren (17 percent) among likely S.C. Democratic voters.

California Sen. Kamala Harris (7 percent) was fourth and the 15 remaining candidates, including South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Pete Buttigieg (4 percent), all received less than 5 percent of support.