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Meet Mark Maxey, the Bearded Man at Bernie’s OKC Rally

Mark Maxey, a volunteer for the event, pauses for a photo during the Bernie Sanders rally, a Future to Believe In, at the Cox Center, Sunday, February 28, 2016. Photo by Doug Hoke, The Oklahoman


NATIONAL (VFB) – It’s hard to imagine someone seeing the picture and caption of Mark Maxey with Bernie Sanders in Oklahoma City and not feeling some sort of emotional response.  When I saw it, I wanted to know more about Mark and what drove him to dedicate so much time and effort towards Bernie’s election.

So I sent him a tweet.  He responded, and after exchanging hellos, he gave me a call.

“We waited over 3 hours just to get in the door,” he recalled of the OKC rally.  The event served as a culmination of just three weeks of fast-paced, nonstop GOTV efforts for Bernie.  So how did Mark and other volunteers end up helping #TeamBernie pull out a victory in so little time?

Mark Maxey, a volunteer for the event, pauses for a photo during the Bernie Sanders rally, a Future to Believe In, at the Cox Center, Sunday, February 28, 2016. Photo by Doug Hoke, The Oklahoman


“That first day in February we had a rally with field organizers.  The next day I started volunteering, and it turned into 7 days a week, 12 to 14 hour days.”

“It wasn’t just me,” Mark made sure to point out. “I can honestly say that in three weeks, I don’t think I’m exaggerating, we had at least 1000 volunteers knocking on doors, phone banking and reaching out to the local public to spread awareness about Bernie’s platform and issues.”

“In those three weeks, we literally took Oklahoma away from Hillary.”


“In those three weeks, we literally took Oklahoma away from Hillary.”


For a number of years until last fall, Mark worked for a local Methodist Church.  But when his and another church merged, cuts were made and Mark found himself unemployed.

“I was unemployed about 6 months,” he told me. “I’d been flooding the market with my resume when a friend starting posting a lot about Bernie Sanders. So at that point I really dug deep to find out who and what Bernie was.  I quickly understood that everything he was talking about, everything that he was for, was where my heart and mind had been for years.”

Once Bernie’s campaign was up and running, “I went to his website and said, ‘Since I have time on my hands, let me just volunteer.'”

I asked Mark what drove a man like him to get engaged now in the Sanders campaign.

“People my age, I’m 53, it’s getting harder and harder to find companies willing to invest their time in older Americans like me. Plus, being an ex-felon, although though my felony was over 20 years ago, there are still companies that won’t even consider hiring me.”

“When I was in Folsom, myself and five lifers started the first prayer group with Father Thomas Keating.  That’s when we really saw positive changes in our lives and awakenings through meditation. Now similar meditation programs operate in 8 different prisons, and over 8,000 prisoners participate in meditation programs on a daily basis.”

There really are programs out there that can turn prisoner’s lives around and to be a part of that is not only humbling, but it really defines what Bernie Sanders is all about. He speaks the truth about Criminal Justice reform, which we desperately need.”


Long before crossing paths with the Senator, Mark like many Americans had grown dissatisfied with establishment politics.  “I had become very disenfrachinsed with the Democratic party, politics in general.  I come from long line of Oklahoma Dems and party machines, I had to turn my back on it years ago, because of the unethical behavior.”


“Everything he was talking about, everything that he was for, was where my heart and mind had been for years.”


“At the rally I was one of the many, many volunteers.  One of the staff told me to go up to ropeline and try to get picture with Bernie.”

“When he walked by I told him I had volunteered 84 hours a week.”

“With tears in my eyes I told him the reason I worked so hard is I want to make sure he is our next President.”

“He put his hand on my shoulder and said, ‘Thank you.'”

“I think that’s part of the reason that the tears began to well inside me and fall down my face. That my whole life I have waited for a candidate with the moral and ethical fiber and the genuineness that he has.

“That’s the thing I like best about the Bernie Sanders’ campaign, first and foremost, out of all the candidates that are running, he is the only genuine human being running.”


With Bernie’s candidacy leading the way, Mark has never felt more optimistic.

“There is a real sense of hope that change is in the air.”

“You can sense it, and feel it.”

“We will change the face of America through Bernie and through the participation of all there grassroots people,” he announced.

“If an unemployed ex-felon can do this, then America can get Bernie elected!”


Tyson Manker is a former combat marine, attorney, and college professor. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.