A coating of icy slush did nothing to deter thousands of people from “Feeling the Bern,” at Brooklyn College on Saturday. In his first campaign rally since announcing his second bid for the White House, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders took the stage before thousands of sign-waving supporters in the borough where he was born and raised.

Sanders enters the race as an immediate front-runner in a crowded Democratic field—his campaign raised $10 million in less than a week. This time, the senator is leaning into his Brooklyn origin story not only to appeal to other Democratic voters but also to draw a striking contrast with the current occupant in the White House, who is another New Yorker with a far more privileged upbringing.

Sanders grew up in Midwood, Brooklyn just a few miles away from the campus, in a three-room rent controlled apartment. His father was a Polish immigrant who worked as a paint-salesman. His mother raised him and his brother Larry. Her dream was to move out of the apartment into their own home—but that dream was never realized.

“I am not going to tell you that I grew up in a home of desperate poverty. That would not be true. But what I will tell you is that coming from a lower middle class family I will never forget how money—or really lack of money—was always a point of stress in our home,” Sanders told the crowd.

That experience of economic anxiety informed the values he holds to this day, “I know where I came from,” Sanders bellowed, “and it’s something I will never forget,” he added eliciting a surge of cheers from the crowd.

Then Sanders pivoted to contrast his humble beginnings with those of Donald Trump, whose father gave him millions, he said, to build “luxury skyscrapers, casinos and country clubs.” In a series of attacks, Sanders positioned Trump as someone whose wealth and privilege distorted his view of the world, whose signature catch phrase (“You’re fired”) lacks the awareness of the “frightening power employers can have over everyday workers.”

Sanders also used the event to reshape his own narrative when it comes to his history with racial justice. In 2016, his campaign was boosted by support among white, progressive men, the so-called “Bernie Bros,” who also served to alienate the campaign from non-white voters—specifically Black women—who are a crucial constituency among Democratic voters.

Before taking the stage himself, Sanders was introduced by Shaun King, a political activist and journalist, who is an outspoken advocate for criminal justice reform and the Black Lives Matter movement. King talked about Sanders history fighting school segregation as a college student in Chicago and marching on Washington with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

King also invoked the memory of the late Erica Garner, the daughter of Eric Garner, who was choked to death by an NYPD officer in the summer of 2014. As an activist, Erica Garner could, “sniff out bullshit a mile away,” King said. Before she died of a heart attack in December 2017, King said she loved Sanders because, “he was an activist pretending to be a politician.”

On policy, Sanders emphasized a litany of progressive proposals that he’s long-pushed for and that have increasingly become fodder for mainstream Democrats—like Medicare for All, a commitment to fighting climate change, plans to expand good paying jobs through rebuilding the country’s infrastructure, support for tuition-free higher education, and the end to unfettered corporate tax breaks and subsidies.

The campaign estimated 13,000 people in attendance, and the college students in the audience gave the rally a markedly youthful energy. The slickly managed event also featured hundreds of volunteers offering chipper greetings and helpful guidance as people navigated the labyrinthine path from surrounding streets to campus walkways to the East Quad where the stage was set.

Among those volunteers was Louis Nunez who was dressed in a banana costume while holding a sign that read, “Going Bananas 4 Bernie.” Nunez said he just wanted to make people laugh because he feels like the country needs it.

“So if this helps people, I’m willing to dress up as a banana for it,” Nunez said with a chuckle. A Montessori School teacher by day and the father of two, Nunez said in seriousness, his support for Sanders is about his kids’ future.

“I see the way things are going now and I get concerned, especially with climate change. That’s huge, I really support the Green New Deal. I just want my children to have a place to call home where they are not scared for resources, where they have opportunities to grow and become amazing human beings,”said Nunez.

Gloriana Xia, 22, a student at Columbia University by way of California stopped to buy a black and pink “Feel the Bern” t-shirt for $20 as she left the rally. Asked why she came to hear the presidential contender, she also talked about climate change. “We only have 11 more years to fix the mess we caused to this planet before an environmental catastrophe becomes inevitable,” she Xia, her voice rising with emotion.

“I figured this would be my one chance to see him live,” Xia added, “cause there is no way my parents would take me to a rally. They don’t like him so much.”

Brigid Bergin is the City Hall and politics reporter for WNYC. You can follow her on Twitter at @brigidbergin.