Crying ‘Peter Pan’ Sanders delegate speaks out for party unity

Sean Kehren reacts to Bernie Sanders' speech. (Screenshot: YouTube/DNC)
Sean Kehren reacts to Bernie Sanders’ speech. (Screenshot: YouTube/DNC)

PHILADELPHIA — As Sen. Bernie Sanders urged his 1,900 Democratic delegates to back Hillary Clinton Monday night, the Internet quickly noticed — and poked fun at — some of his delegates’ emotional responses to the end of his insurgent campaign.

Even in this sea of sadness, Sean Kehren, a 22-year-old Sanders delegate from Minnesota, stood out. For one, he was wearing a Peter Pan-style hat (which represents a “Robin Hood tax” on Wall Street). His expression of pure anguish as Sanders spoke earned him the title of “breakout star” among all the crying Sanders delegates.

Slideshow: Sanders supporters weep at the DNC >>>

Kehren’s image was quickly churned into memes, many of them making fun of Sanders supporters for their die-hard “Bernie or bust” stance. Twitter referred to him alternately as “Crying Peter Pan” and “sad Robin Hood.”

Kehren, however, told Yahoo News that he is not a Bernie-or-buster. He said he was crying in part because he found it very noble that Sanders was encouraging his fans to back Clinton for the good of the nation after such a hard-fought and idealistic campaign. (Kehren also wept earlier Monday when Sanders was loudly booed by his delegates for telling them to get behind Clinton.)

“I was getting emotional over the fact that he was doing his best to unify the party and I think that’s such a noble cause,” Kehren said. “Bernie has led a revolution, he’s led a movement, and now that movement has to get behind the party.”

Kehren said he’s not a privileged “Bernie Bro” who hates Clinton, as some on social media have branded him. He said he was raised by a struggling single mom and will vote for Clinton in the election. “She’s done her best to make deals with Bernie and to embrace his side, and I have to give her credit for that,” he said of Clinton.

This is not Kehren’s first brush with Internet fame. “Two months ago, I pulled a woman out of a burning car,” he said. (He helped save the woman’s life by bravely removing her from the car.) And he understands why people with more distance from the impassioned Democratic primary think the photos are funny.

“I’m willing to admit that it’s funny to other people who don’t feel as passionate about it as I do,” he said. “And I don’t expect anyone to know who I am through just a picture of me crying.”


Related slideshows:

On the ground at the DNC — a photo report >>>

How newspapers covered the historic second day of the DNC >>>

Sanders supporters weep at DNC >>>

How newspapers covered the DNC’s first big day >>>

Demonstrators protest outside the DNC >>>