Liberty University, the conservative Christian school in Lynchburg, Va., where Ted Cruz kicked off his bid for the Republican presidential nomination, is not such an obvious stop on the campaign trail for Bernie Sanders.
But the independent senator from Vermont , who is vying to be the Democratic party’s 2016 presidential nominee, has been booked to speak there next month at a university convocation.
“It goes without saying that my views on many issues -- women’s rights, gay rights, education and many other issues -- are very different from the opinions of some in the Liberty University community,” Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist who is Jewish, said Wednesday night, in comments relayed by a spokesman.
But Sanders said he would like to see if “we can reach consensus regarding the grotesque level of income and wealth inequality in our country, about the collapse of the middle class, about the high level of childhood poverty, about climate change and other issues.”
Sanders, who has emerged as the leading alternative to Hillary Rodham Clinton for the Democratic nomination, said he accepted the university’s invitation to speak Sept. 14. The university, which was founded by the late Rev. Jerry Falwell, holds convocations three times a week, which it bills as “North America’s largest weekly gathering of Christian students.”
The Lynchburg News & Advance, which first reported Sanders’s scheduled appearance, said 12,000 people frequently attend the convocations.
The university often brings in guest speakers for the gatherings. Others scheduled in coming weeks, according to a university Web site, include Gretchen Carlson, the Fox News Channel anchor; Darryl Strawberry, the former major league baseball player who is an ordained Christian minister; and Ben Carson, the retired neurosurgeon who is competing for the GOP presidential nomination.
“It is very easy for a candidate to speak to people who hold the same views,” Sanders said. “It’s harder but important to reach out to others who look at the world differently. I look forward to meeting with the students and faculty of Liberty University.”