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Bernie's book nets thousands of dollars for Parent/Child Center

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Posted on April 11, 2016 |
By John Flowers



bernie and donna pic.2,jpg.jpg
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS addresses the crowd at his presidential campaign announcement in Burlington last May as Addison County Parent/Child Center Co-director Donna Bailey, in sunglasses at Sanders’ immediate right, looks on. Sanders has donated more than $47,000 in royalties from his book “The Speech” to the Parent/Child Center. Independent file photo/Angelo Lynn

MIDDLEBURY — A marathon speech delivered by U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., more than five years ago is now paying some big dividends to the Addison County Parent/Child Center.

It was on Dec. 10, 2010, that Sanders — now in a battle for the Democratic nomination for president — took to the podium in the U.S. Senate chambers and launched into an eight-and-a-half-hour filibuster decrying the preservation of the Bush-era tax cuts for the highest wage-earners.

It was a speech that garnered a lot of publicity, to the extent that the publishing company Nation Books asked for Sanders’ permission to transcribe his impassioned oratory into a book. Sanders agreed, and in 2011, “The Speech” was released.

Sanders declined any profits associated with the 288-page book, preferring to have them given to a nonprofit that he has long admired and respected: The Addison County Parent/Child Center.

Sanders and his staff have been frequent visitors to the center, which provides childcare, education, job training, housing and other resources for young parents making a transition to careers and successful households. Sanders is also a former Head Start teacher.

“Bernie has come here many times to meet with parents, staff and children,” said Donna Bailey, co-director of the Middlebury center. “He wants to hear what it’s like on the ground.”

So Bailey was thrilled when Sanders called her to ask if the Parent/Child Center would like to receive royalties from “The Speech.” She gratefully accepted the offer, but asked Sanders to recommend the point at which the center should start sharing the bounty with other nonprofits.

“He said, ‘Why don’t you start worrying when it gets to $100,000?’” Bailey recalled of the 2011 conversation.

It seemed a little far-fetched at the time to imagine that “The Speech” might generate $100,000 in royalties. Sanders was, of course, well known at the time, with a core group of supporters. But at the same time, this was a marathon filibuster speech — not exactly a Michael Crichton or John Grisham page-turner.

Center officials were ecstatic to get an initial, $20,960 check from the publishing company in October of 2011, representing Sanders’ signing bonus. Then came the semiannual royalty checks. Around $3,300 in April of 2012, then $749 in October of 2012. The checks were each substantially less than $1,000 through 2014 and the beginning of 2015.

But Sanders’ decision last year to run for president changed everything.

The center received a check for $2,585 in October of 2015. Then last Wednesday, April 6, the center received a check for a whopping $16,332.

That means “The Speech” has yielded a total of $47,769 thus far for the Parent/Child Center. There are no strings attached to the funds, so the center has weaved them in its operating budget.

“It helps sustain our programming,” Bailey said.

Suddenly, $100,000 doesn’t seem like such a wild notion.

“It was a great unintended consequence of him running for president,” said Bailey, who helped introduce Sanders during his formal announcement for president in Burlington last May.

Bailey noted that Sanders has continued to make personal donations to the center, even as the book royalties have been rolling in.

“It makes him one of our largest individual donors,” Bailey said of the recent Bernie bucks bonanza.

Sanders noted, in a statement, that the Parent/Child Center ensures that young children and families get the support they need to build the foundations for a healthy childhood. 

“I am thrilled the proceeds from the sale of my book have continued to help such an outstanding local organization,” he said. “The first few years of a child’s life are incredibly important. I am glad, through these donations, that I have been able to help strengthen an organization that does so much for Vermont families.”

Center officials are hoping Sanders’ presidential run will continue to make Sanders’ 2011 book, the full title of which is “The Speech: A Historic Filibuster on Corporate Greed and the Decline of Our Middle Class,” a big seller.

And you needn’t ask Bailey who will get her vote if Sanders makes it onto the presidential ballot.

“He really means what he says; he walks the walk,” Bailey said.

Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected]

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