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Famous entertainer visits UT, encourages students to vote

By Russell Axon
On October 10, 2012

Hip-hop artist will.i.am briefly visited UT Monday, Oct. 8, as a representative for the Obama campaign.

The musician encouraged a crowd of students in the Student Union Building to vote in order to improve education and opportunities for lower class citizens.

“I come from the projects, and [there are] people in my neighborhood that are not brought up to speed,” he said.

The singer said he remembered touring in Toledo many years ago and that the community is “important,” especially its college students.

“I care about the … youth in college [and] the debt they’re going to have when they get out of college,” he said in press conference. “So them going out and [voting] is going to prepare for jobs in the future.”

In an exclusive interview with the Independent Collegian, the musician said cultural shifts have affected youth turnout and participation in this year’s election.

“2008 was like the Super Bowl — it was bigger than the Super Bowl,” he said. “It started in January all the way to November, politics … everywhere you went, from magazines to television to 7-Elevens, it was everywhere. And now it’s not.”

The singer said that families and communities need to push for more awareness about the election and “all the things that are at stake.”

Will.i.am said focus and funding should go to science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields, commonly referred to as STEM fields.

“We need to bring STEM to the neighborhoods,” he said. “We need to bring STEM to the hood; we need to change the hood to good.”

The musician said these were the reasons he supports President Obama

“Obama is fighting for … equal opportunity in education [and] changing the inner cities,” he said.

In addition to his music career, will.i.am also founded several charities which he said were motivated by Obama’s election last year.

“[I was inspired] four years ago with the sentence ‘Yes we can.’ That sentence made me realize that I’m a part of ‘we,’ and what am I going to do? Am I going to sit around and complain,” he said. “So I started my ‘i.am scholarship syndicate,’ sending kids to school debt free, I started my ‘i.am home’ where I save families from losing their home because there are no jobs in America.”

The singer said he thinks Obama’s chances for re-election will be determined by awareness and participation.

“We have a good shot if people realize how important it is, you know, without television, without it being plastered all the TV screens and magazines like it was in 2008, you have to remind yourself why it’s important,” he said. “We’re good if people realize how important and powerful their voice is.”

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