During a very brief speech at Chadbourne Residential College, Portman urged students to get to the polls in November.
“As you know, the last election was decided by a few thousand votes and maybe not even decided,” Portman said. “You know what the power is of very small numbers of people just spreading from the grassroots.”
With Kerry/Edwards campaign signs behind her, Portman criticized the effect of President Bush’s policies on the college-age generation.
“We’re the generation that’s going to be affected by the environmental policies Bush has been putting forward, the economy that Bush has been destroying,” said Portman, who attended Harvard. “The war effort is going to be the burden of our generation.
Portman said she voted in 2000 but did not participate further in the election. She told the packed room of students that they must seek further involvement in this year’s race, especially in the “key state” of Wisconsin.
After her speech, Portman signed autographs and posed for pictures with students. Volunteers from the Kerry campaign encouraged audience members to assist with efforts aimed at increasing voter turnout among women.
Students afterward had mixed feelings as to whether celebrities such as Portman can impact voters by endorsing a candidate.
UW sophomore Elizabeth Gokay believed voters do consider the message celebrities project, even if more credible sources of information exist.
“Celebrities definitely do have an impact,” Gokay said. “I don’t know that they should, but they do. When people are swayed in debates by what people are wearing, of course they’re going to be swayed by celebrities.”
But UW freshman Kalen Ullsperger wasn’t so sure that people should take celebrities’ endorsements to heart.
“To some extent, people do, just because a lot (of) people look up to celebrities, like Dave Matthews or Natalie,” Ullsperger said. “I think they can have a sway, but not a great deal.”