Ryerson student moves south to help Bernie Sanders’ bid for U.S. presidency

While at a Halloween house party, sixth-year economics student Linh Nguyen got a call that moved her to tears: she would be moving to Iowa. More importantly, presidential candidate Bernie Sanders is to be her new boss.

The call came just a few weeks after Nguyen’s losing bid for the Green party in Mississauga Centre in last month’s federal election. After two months spent door-to-door canvassing — often fuelled by a pound of bulk store candy and listening to Rihanna — Nguyen placed fourth with two per cent of the riding’s vote.
After the briefest hiatus, she is getting right back on the campaign trail, this time after applying for a job as a staff consultant for Sanders, a Vermont senator, during his bid for the Democratic nomination for president.

“It was interesting running with the Greens because you know you’re the underdog,” Nguyen said.

Former Green party candidate and Ryerson student Linh Nguyen is helping Democrat candidate Bernie Sanders in the U.S. presidential election (Al Donato/Ryersonian Staff)

Former Green party candidate and Ryerson student Linh Nguyen is helping Democrat candidate Bernie Sanders in the U.S. presidential election (Al Donato/Ryersonian Staff)

“Bernie is the most progressive voice and the underdog on the Democratic side. (Even though he’s) a 74-year-old man, everything he says resonates with me more than any other candidate.”

Before leaving for Des Moines last weekend, Nguyen had to wind down some of her many commitments at home. She was active on campus, working with RUChangemakers, the City Building Institute and the Centre for Urban Energy, as well as her creative firm, the Bodhi Collective, part of the Social Ventures Zone.

Nguyen hopes to carry student issues with her into her new job.

“Because I’m a current student, making tuition affordable and accessible is so important,” Nguyen said.

“Bernie’s view on tuition in the States is well in line with the Green party. I’m very interested in his strategy, what phasing it in looks like and what it will cost America.”

Sanders proposes to spend $47 billion per year to eliminate tuition for four-year undergraduate programs. He also promises to cut student loan interest rates in half.

“Come November 2016, I want to make sure I get to the White House with Bernie.”

Nguyen grew up in the only Asian family in the predominantly white town of Alliston, Ont. — an experience that could serve her well in her new job.

As well as being the only Canadian on Sanders’s Iowa team, Nguyen said she will be a visible minority in the state of three million residents, 92 per cent of whom are white.

Because it’s the location of the first caucuses of the Democratic primary and because it is a swing state, all major candidates devote significant time and money to win there.

In past elections, Canadians have travelled to work for American election campaigns, with many from Toronto knocking on doors for U.S. president Barack Obama.

Nguyen’s role will mainly be co-ordinating ground operations like these, and anything involving recruitment, event logistics and voter registration.

The workload is something she’s looking forward to.

“I’m going to work 10 times harder than ever,” Nguyen said.

“Come November 2016, I want to make sure I get to the White House with Bernie.”

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