NEWS: Sanders Holds Town Meetings in Vermont with Finnish Ambassador Mikko Hautala

BURLINGTON, Vt., Oct. 21 – Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) Thursday held town meetings in Moretown and Burlington with Finland’s Ambassador to the United States, Mikko Hautala. Sen. Sanders and Ambassador Hautala began the day at the Vermont Statehouse with a bipartisan group of legislators and staff to discuss how Finland’s government implements and pays for their highly popular social programs. Next, they traveled to Harwood Union Middle and High School to speak with 670 students and faculty about what Vermonters can learn from Finland and their different systems and social programs. The second town meeting was held in Burlington with nearly 150 Vermonters in attendance. Find photos from the day here.

Throughout both town meetings, Sen. Sanders and Ambassador Hautala discussed differences and similarities in how the United States and Finland address a variety of issues, including health care, education, child care, paid family leave, media ownership, campaign spending, climate change, and more. During the visits, Sen. Sanders and Ambassador Hautala held question-and-answer sessions to hear directly from students and the public. The Harwood Union students asked questions about tuition-free college, political engagement, and funding of the arts. Vermonters at the Burlington town meeting asked questions about taxation, educational systems, trust in government institutions, mental health care and substance use, and foreign policy, including Finland’s effort to join NATO and their support for the people of Ukraine. 

“What I wanted Vermonters to get a glimpse of is a country like Finland that does things rather differently than we do in the United States,” said Sanders. “While we have many systems based on corporate greed, other countries have programs that do a better job at protecting the needs of working people. There’s a lot that we can learn about Finland’s education system, health care system, child care system, and the priorities of their governmental and social institutions. We had great discussions at both town meetings, and I am grateful to Ambassador Hautala for visiting our state.” 

“I truly enjoyed my visit and the unique opportunity to exchange views with Vermonters,” said Ambassador Hautala. “Finland has its own challenges too, particularly related to an aging population. But our strength is a dynamic and innovative economy, and a public sector which people trust to deliver the infrastructure and services they need. I want to thank Senator Sanders for the invitation to share our experiences”.

Starting off the Burlington town meeting, Sanders asked the Finnish ambassador to share why he thinks his country regularly ranks as the happiest in the world. In response, the Ambassador cited the fact that the Finnish people trust their government and that they don’t have to worry about stressors that are common in the United States, like medical bills, paying for child care and college, or being paid a livable wage. During a particularly lighthearted part of the discussion, the Ambassador joked that Sanders – whose ideas for social change are often considered radical in the United States – would be considered “boring” and “mainstream” in Finland.