Bernie Launches Campaign with Vow of 'Winning Not Just an Election, But Transforming Our Country'

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) hugs his wife Jane after finishing speaking in Brooklyn

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) officially kicked off his 2020 presidential campaign today by resurrecting a pledge to defeat not just President Trump but "Wall Street, the insurance companies, the drug companies, the military-industrial complex, the prison-industrial complex, the fossil fuel industry, and a corrupt campaign finance system."

Sanders rallied a largely young crowd at Brooklyn College, near where he grew up in the Flatbush neighborhood and announced that he'd already signed up more than a million campaign volunteers.

"Donald Trump wants to divide us up by the color of our skin, our country of origin, our gender, our religion, and our sexual orientation. We are going to do exactly the opposite," he said. "We are going to bring our people together – black, white, Latino, Native American, Asian American, gay and straight, young and old, men and women, native-born and immigrant."

Among his standard policy points, Sanders referenced Amazon after the online giant's recent decision to back out of its New York headquarters project amid protests in Queens and various labor and development demands from officials.

"We will no longer accept the absurd situation where large corporations like Amazon, Netflix, and General Motors pay nothing in federal income taxes after raking in billions in profits," he said.

Sanders spent much of his speech contrasting his background with Trump's. "I did not have a father who gave me millions of dollars to build luxury skyscrapers, casinos, and country clubs. I did not come from a family that gave me a $200,000 allowance every year beginning at the age of three. As I recall, my allowance was 25 cents a week," he said. "...I did not come from a family of privilege that prepared me to entertain people on television by telling workers: 'You’re fired.' I came from a family who knew all too well the frightening power employers can have over everyday workers."

"I did not come from a family that could afford to send my brother and me to an elite boarding school. In fact, I was educated in high-quality public schools here in Brooklyn and began the first year of my college life on this very campus. I should also mention that my brother graduated from Brooklyn College," he added. "...I did not come from a family that taught me to build a corporate empire through housing discrimination. I protested housing discrimination, was arrested for protesting school segregation, and attended Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King’s March on Washington for jobs and freedom."

The senator told his supporters that "because of all the work we have done, we are now on the brink of winning not just an election, but transforming our country."

"We have an enormous amount of work in front of us," Sanders said. "And this what I believe. If we stand together, if we don't allow Trump and his friends to divide us up, there is nothing we cannot accomplish."

A new University of New Hampshire poll found Sanders leading the rest of the increasingly crowded Democratic primary pack, with 26 percent of voters picking the former senator from a list of declared and likely candidates. Former Vice President Joe Biden came in second with 22 percent.