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Celebrities have a right to speak about politics

Posted on 11.08.2017

YES: From songs to award shows to sporting events, politics seem to be involved in just about everything. Plenty of celebrities have political opinions. Whether they express them or not is up to them.   Moreover, many people also have opinions about celebrities being involved in politics and expressing their opinions to the public.

To say that celebrities should stick to “their jobs” and not be involved in politics is downright foolish. As someone who is employed, I can assure that my job does not make up the entirety of my being. Of course, I must maintain professionalism in the workplace, but that does not mean that I can’t speak out on issues.

Celebrities are influential. They have platforms that can reach millions of people in a matter of minutes, and they can use these platforms to educate and speak out about social and political injustices. Last year Jesse Williams won the Humanitarian Award from BET and used his award speech to speak out about some injustice in the United States.

“This award,”  Williams said, “this is for the real organizers all over the country—the activists, the civil rights attorneys, the struggling parent, the families, the teachers, the students­—that are realizing that a country built to divide and impoverish and destroy can’t stand, if we do.”

Williams also went on to speak for the rights of black women and against police brutality and cultural appropriation, then received a standing ovation from the crowd.  According to deadline.com, 7.2 million people tuned in for the award show. 7.2 million people heard Jesse Williams’ touching speech. He took advantage of the opportunity to speak and educate those on the troubles of the country. People such as Tamir Rice, Sandra Bland, Michael Brown and many others might have gone unnoticed if celebrities hadn’t spoken out about them.  If a bigger voice had not been involved, it would be likely that these names would not be familiar to most people.

I’ve often heard people say that celebrities should keep politics out of awards shows and sports games and should protest or speak somewhere else. But where else should they do it that would be effective? The entire point of them speaking out on such issues in front of large audiences is to get their point across and tell the world that there is a problem.

There is plenty of research to indicate that celebrity endorsements the and involvement of celebrities has impacted the overall number of young people who vote and the overall outcome of elections in general. In 2016, Associate Professor of Strategy and the Director of Kellogg’s Health Enterprise Management Program Craig Garthwaite and President at Exercise Science, Inc., Timothy J. Moore published their research about celebrity endorsements being connected to political outcomes.

“Before the 2008 Democratic presidential primary, Barack Obama was endorsed by talk show host Oprah Winfrey,” the official research report from Northwestern University said. “… We assess the impact of this endorsement using, as measures of Winfrey’s influence, subscriptions to her magazine and sales of the books she recommends. We find that her endorsement increased Obama’s votes and financial contributions, and also increased overall voter turnout. No connection is found between the measures of Oprah’s influence and previous elections, nor with underlying political preferences. Our results suggest that Winfrey’s endorsement was responsible for approximately 1 million additional votes for Obama.”

This is just one of many research projects that have been conducted about celebrities in politics. It also should not go unnoticed that the president is a celebrity. Before Donald Trump became president, he was a reality television star. Trump starred in NBC’s “The Apprentice” and even made appearances in “The Celebrity Apprentice.” To elect a celebrity as president and then say that celebrities should not be commenting on politics seems tremendously hypocritical to me.

Furthermore, celebrities have every right to express their political beliefs, as does every other U.S. citizen. Celebrities are people too. One may argue that celebrities cannot be involved in politics because they cannot relate to the average American. This may indeed be true in some cases, but just because they may not relate doesn’t mean that they cannot feel. A good number of celebrities donate their earnings to charities that help other people out of empathy. And many celebrities who have had to work their way to fame, such as Eminem, Tom Cruise and Oprah Winfrey, know what it is like to struggle.

Celebrity involvement in politics is not a bad thing. It illuminates injustices, it brings voters to the polls and establishes a national dialogue. Let the celebrities talk all they want and let the listener decide whether what they are saying is worth noting.

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