Actress Shailene Woodley encouraged a crowd of about 150 students to vote and volunteer in support of U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders’, D-VT, presidential campaign in a talk hosted by Brown University Students for Bernie Saturday night. Addressing the crowd, Woodley said “Our country is not thriving. This is about a movement towards reestablishing democracy in America.”
The event, which was advertised exclusively on Facebook beginning Thursday night, was held as a precursor to the Rhode Island primary Tuesday.
“It was last-minute,” said Aidan Calvelli ’19, a member of the Brown University Students for Bernie leadership team. “We got a call from the campaign on Thursday night, and we had to make a quick-go-or-no-go decision about whether to do it.”
At the event, students picked up posters and pins supporting Sanders as they filed into List 120. The event featured a quick introduction by Calvelli followed by a 20-minute speech by Woodley and a meet-and-greet among the attendees. Students were encouraged to volunteer in the coming days prior to the Rhode Island primary, and clipboards for canvassing were passed around.
Woodley spoke to the audience about her reasons for supporting Sanders and her personal experience volunteering for the campaign. She told personal stories and referenced issues such as climate change and the recent New York primary. She encouraged audience members to vote and to actively participate in volunteering for the campaign. “We have to bring and demand justice back in our country,” Woodley told the audience, adding that this is a “true political revolution that is bigger than us in this room, bigger than Bernie.”
“We’re happy about the turnout and having people fill out a lot of signup sheets to canvass,” Calvelli said. “We wanted to have Shailene’s presence inspire people to canvass and volunteer at the phone bank.”
Audience members included Sanders supporters as well as interested voters trying to determine which candidate to support.
Oscar Salazar, a student at Westchester Community College in New York, has volunteered in New York and Philadelphia and travelled to Rhode Island to volunteer for the Sanders campaign. “It was amazing to see her and speak out for Bernie,” he said. “I wish that I had a rose to toss to her since it was the most inspirational speech.”
Udoka Oji ’18 and Allyson Goto ’18 came to the event because they said they are in the process of exploring candidates. “This was the easiest platform for us to be exposed to the candidates in a way that’s the most tangible,” Goto said, adding that being at the event in person gave her the opportunity to observe and identify with the voters on campus who support Sanders and also get a feel for the reasons why people vote for him.
“I wanted to see Shailene Woodley, and I support Bernie, so it’s a package deal,” said Alec Brown ’19. “It’s great to see other young people active in the political process and see it from a different perspective rather than just Bernie telling me something.”
“For a lot of people, this is their first time taking part in the political system and having the opportunity to vote and having their voices heard,” Woodley said. “Rhode Island goes to primary on Tuesday, and I wanted to come to the college campus to encourage people my age, my peers, my colleagues.”
“We understand that a lot of people at Brown may not be registered in Rhode Island, but this event and really all the work that we’re doing at Brown for Bernie is about getting people to vote and making sure that we have as high a turnout as possible,” Calvelli said. “This event is part of an effort to get people really excited about politics because Brown’s reputation as a political campus is only deserved if the people show up, go to the polls and make their voices heard.”