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Celebrities visit Hofstra to promote voter registration

By: Andrea Ordonez (Managing Editor), Joe Pantorno (Editor-in-Chief) "I'm feeling sexy today," said Latino actor Wilmer Valderrama, wearing a clean gray suit as he addressed students in Student Center Plaza Room West with Cobra Starship's lead singer Gabe Saporta on Tuesday.

Both were speaking on behalf of Voto Latino, a non-partisan organization, which seeks to get Latinos and young voters to register to vote.

Hosted by HOLA (Hofstra Organization of Latin Americans), Phi Iota Alpha and Delta Phi Epsilon, students got the opportunity to register to vote and listen to some big names in entertainment speak about the importance of youth involvement in the coming election.

The quick formation and promotion of this event came after Jose L. Rivera, president of the University's Phi Iota Alpha chapter, received a request last week from a member of his fraternity that works closely with celebrities.

"It was literally last minute, so we were trying to promote with Twitter, on Facebook, trying to get as many people here as possible," said Rivera. "I'm usually a good worker under pressure."

While Rivera's main goal was to get students to register to vote, he also wanted the event to create awareness of issues that currently affect Latino voters.

"For me, it's immigration reform," said Rivera. "I have a lot of immigrant friends...Their parents are not citizens and with this new law Obama is passing, they can have the opportunity to become citizens and I don't want to see myself lose a lot of friends because they're not from here."

Saporta, born in Uruguay, immigrated to the United States when he was four years old. He recalled how other countries approach politics differently compared to America.

"Being involved in the political process was a dangerous thing," said Saporta. "In America, it's such a right and a luxury."

Valderrama, who is of Colombian and Venezuelan descent, is a highly active member of Voto Latino, appearing in numerous Public Service Announcements with other stars such as Jessica Alba, Rosario Dawson and Common. He emphasized the students the necessity of what happens when youth don't participate in the electoral process.

"We have to do something," Valderrama said. "Or else one day, you are going to wonder, 'Why does my country suck?'"

Despite their different backgrounds, both felt honored to use their celebrity status to motivate students.

"We have the same interests as you guys," said Valderrama about why he and Saporta want to expand the youth presence in elections. "We just happen to have a very exotic job."

Saporta said he has grown to like using his musical fame to promote this cause.

"For a long time, I fought against the idea of trying to be any spokesman or a role model," Saporta said. "After a while, you just keep making songs. So you get to contribute another way and that's nice."


The presence of Valderrama and Saporta did bring in a standing room crowd filled with cell phones and cameras snapping pictures of the stars. The event managed to get at least 50 students registered to vote, according to Arianna Valdez, vice president of HOLA. At this time, the official count remains undetermined since laptops were used to help students not from the New York area sign up for absentee ballots.

Buddy Shalam, a freshman accounting major, admits he came to the event to see Valderrama. However, he said he would have registered to vote even if celebrities didn't come to campus.

"It's important to get your say out," said Shalam. "Having these speakers come, it adds fun to voting."


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