Feature: Sean Astin campaigns for Hillary Clinton

Note: This article was originally published in Technician on April 23, 2008.


'Samwise the Brave' visits campus

Sean Astin visited campus Tuesday in order to campaign for presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. The actor, perhaps best known as his role as Sam in the Lord of the Rings films, made N.C. State only one of his stops on a three-day trip across the state that also included presentations at Duke and UNC-Chapel Hill.

Astin opened his speech by addressing the negative image many people have of celebrities who are politically active and explaining how politics has played a role in his personal life.

"Celebrities' opinions are no more important than anybody else's opinions, but I also say they're no less important," Astin said. "I've always been very passionate about politics. I really love government. ... I'm a citizen first."

He also acknowledged that, although he supports Clinton, he has the utmost respect for John McCain and Barack Obama. He pointed out how Obama has inspired younger people and brought many new voters to the Democratic Party, and said he has committed to supporting his campaign should he end up getting the nomination.

He also cited McCain's war record and views on immigration reform and campaign financing reform as characteristics he admired, but also added that those weren't high-priority issues in this election. Ultimately, he said, he feels Hillary is the strongest candidate.

"When it gets right down to it, I think just, fundamentally, she has a different level of experience, and that experience is really meaningful to me," Astin said. "People try and dismiss the value of what she accomplished when she was the First Lady."

Astin specifically referenced her visits to more than 80 countries as a sign that she was the most experienced candidate in the area of foreign policy. He also spoke briefly about her plans to benefit college students by abolishing the FAFSA form, increasing the Pell Grant to $10,000 and implementing direct government lending for tuition fees. There was then a question-and-answer session for students.

Many students said they were impressed by the event.

"I think he was a good speaker," Achal Anekal, a freshman in mechanical engineering, said. "I learned a lot about Hillary Clinton. He showed me that I still have a lot to learn about her, so I guess I'm going to go to the Web site and check out what's going on."

Will Lampe, a freshman in industrial engineering, said he admired Astin's willingness to share specific details about Clinton's plans as president.

"Sean knew what he was talking about," Lampe said. "I was really impressed with all the facts that he had. He's a smart guy, even though a lot of people have a negative impression of celebrities."

However, some expressed distaste at how the University chose to handle the event -- it was held in Caldwell Hall, and about 40 people attended. "The University could have had a better place for it and more publicity," Lampe said. "Having only 30 to 40 people here in Caldwell, which is not a good place for a speaker, is a little saddening."

His sentiments were echoed by Heather Causey, a sophomore in civil engineering.

"It wasn't well-advertised," Causey said. "I'm sure there are enough nerds and Lord of the Rings fans at N.C. State that this place could have been packed, but I feel like people came out with enthusiasm and it didn't matter."

Despite these shortcomings, Astin said he felt the event went better than others he has attended.

"There are some events where there's a ton of people, there's some events where there's two people," Astin said. "I thought it was a fine turnout. I think it was the most spirited discussion I've had."

The actor was especially proud that more than 15 people signed up to volunteer for the Clinton campaign. Perhaps his most emphatic endorsement came when he compared Hillary to characters from Lord of the Rings.

"She's got the grace and beauty and dignity of Arwen, and the fierce fighting capacity of Aragorn," Astin said.