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Home / Tom Hanks

Michelle Obama urges voter engagement at event near downtown LA

Former first lady Michelle Obama delivered the keynote address at the conclusion of the Culture of Democracy Summit on Monday, urging the public to remain engaged in the voting process as “states (work) to change the way elections are administered.”

“This stuff is scary to think about and it leaves us all feeling helpless, and Lord knows we all need to do some preservation just to get through the day,” Obama said at Banc of California Stadium in Exposition Park.

“Sometimes it’s easier just to look away … but just because it’s easier doesn’t mean it’s right. We are clowning ourselves, because these past couple of months alone have proven that there’s no guarantee that these issues won’t reach every single one of us.”

The four-day event — which aimed to bring together people from various walks of life to discuss “the role different industries play in protecting and strengthening democracy through voter registration, education, mobilization and culture change” — culminated Monday with a daylong series of speeches and panel discussions featuring entertainment and sports notables.

“I have said it before, but it’s important for us all to remember it’s not just about who you vote for,” Obama said. “It’s not about whether you’re a Republican, Democrat or independent … this is so much bigger than that, because right now when we look around at everything that is happening with voting and our democracy, it is clear that we’re seeing a deep discrepancy between what we tell ourselves about this country and what we see with our own eyes.”

A series of discussions featuring celebrities such as Selena Gomez, Janelle Monáe, Wanda Sykes and Tracee Ellis Ross preceded Obama’s speech. NBA players Chris Paul and CJ McCollum also took part, along with former Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers, who now coaches the Philadelphia 76ers.

Among the topics up for discussion were the history of democracy in the United States and its current state, which Obama said is “glorified in idea and neglected in action.”

Additionally, the spread of disinformation and ways to counter it, reproductive rights in light of the potential overturning of Roe v. Wade, social responsibility in the entertainment industry, the criminal justice system and the impact professional sports have on society and democracy were covered by the event’s speakers.

“No one has the luxury to sit out or stay at home just because you’re not feeling excited enough,” Obama said. “Because, as I’ve said time and time again, if you don’t vote, other people will.”

When We All Vote was founded in an effort to increase voter participation by helping “close the race and age gap,” working with community organizations to register voters and promote civic education.

“I am calling on anyone who cares about our democracy to stand for everyone’s place in it, because this is not a partisan issue, it’s an American one, and anyone who says otherwise is trying to get you to stay quiet about the threats we face,” Obama said.

Among the founders of the group with Obama were Tom Hanks, Jennifer Lopez, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Monáe, Gomez, Stephen Curry, Paul, H.E.R., Kerry Washington and Shonda Rhimes.

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