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WATCH: Here's What Bernie Sanders Told Liberty University

WATCH: Here's What Bernie Sanders Told Liberty University

Bernie Sanders

The Democratic presidential candidate, who leads in polls, spoke at the antigay university.

To boost his socially conservative bona fides, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas announced his presidential campaign at Liberty University back in March. The private Virginia evangelical school was founded by Jerry Falwell and has a long history of antigay entanglements, so there's arguably no more symbolic place for demonstrating your antigay credentials.

Still, Bernie Sanders spoke there today, bringing with him hopes for finding "common ground."

"Let me start off by acknowledging what I think all of you already know, and that is the views that many here at Liberty University have and I on a number of important issues are are very, very different," the Democratic presidential candidate told the packed audience. "I believe in women's rights, and the right of a woman to control her own body. I believe in gay rights and gay marriage. Those are my views, and it is no secret. But I came here today because I believe from the bottom of my heart that it is vitally important for those of us who hold different views to be able to engage in a civil discourse."

Sanders, who polls now show is leading Hillary Clinton in both Iowa and New Hampshire, mentioned LGBT people only one other time in the 20-minute speech.

"I understand that the issues of abortion and gay marriage are issues you feel strongly about. We disagree on those issues. I get that," he said. "Let me respectfully suggest that there are other issues out there that are of enormous consequence to our country and in fact to the entire world that maybe just maybe we do not disagree on, and maybe, just maybe, we can try to work together to resolve them."

Sanders' speech focused largely on "injustice" in the world, calling it "rampant," before listing all the ways unequal distribution of wealth and resources has hurt Americans. He encouraged the audience to "take on very powerful and wealthy people whose greed, in my view, is doing this country enormous harm."

Sanders, who is Jewish, appears to have received a largely polite welcome, though news reports noted large swaths of people who never applauded. It contrasts somewhat with the controversy sparked during the 2012 election when some students protested Mitt Romney, a Mormon, as a commencement speaker.

Watch the complete speech in video below:

[youtube expand=1 site_id=25879312]

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