News

Actress Olivia Wilde ’02 Campaigns for Obama

Editor’s Note: The writer is the brother of Olivia Wilde ’02. After meeting Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, an inspired Olivia Wilde ’02 said, “I was ready to change the world with this man, and so was everyone else in the room.” The actress, most famous for appearing in FOX television programs “House” and “The O.C.”, met Obama at a gathering in Los Angeles last year, when people from the Hollywood community were invited to hear the senator speak. The meeting was barred to the press as an open forum for artists to share their concerns with him freely. “I really just wanted to hear him speak and feel out his vibe,” Wilde said. “He walked in, and I was almost sold just based on his smile and handshake. His personality is, let’s face it, awesome. Of course this is not a reason to elect anyone, but it doesn’t hurt. He is magnetic,” she said. After hearing him speak, Wilde decided to further her support by actively campaigning for Obama. “He is so sincere, intelligent, funny, relaxed and captivating, that by the end of that evening I had agreed to travel to freezing cold Iowa to speak to groups of students about the Senator and his mission. I would have agreed to go to Siberia,” Wilde said. Wilde went on to describe her surprise at the number of well-known actors and musicians who had gathered in the small, windowless basement room of a hotel in West Hollywood for the chance to meet the presidential candidate. Wilde felt it was a clear indication of how popular Obama was becoming among people in the entertainment business. Many artists have lent time and creativity to help Obama spread his message. A music video titled “Yes We Can,” which involved many popular singers and actors, carried his speech across the country through YouTube. Wilde said, “The only real power Hollywood has in these elections is spreading the candidate’s message far and wide through venues not always accessible to politicians.” A few weeks after the meeting, Wilde was shooting a scene for the show “House” on the FOX lot when her phone rang. Her friend and fellow Obama supporter actor Kal Penn raced over saying, “Pick it up! It’s Barack!” As Wilde’s initial disbelief melted away into excitement, Obama thanked her for coming to the gathering and asked her if she was seriously considering campaigning in Iowa the next weekend. Obama said to Wilde, “It’ll be fun! We’ll get you out there talking to the people about the power of caucusing.” Wilde said, “I was so excited and honored I could hardly move.” After the phone call, Wilde described squeaking and jumping up and down with excitement. Later, she discovered that she had never pressed the button to hang up, and the Senator had heard her whole celebration. Wilde said, “I heard much later that he found it very endearing, but of course I was, and still am, a little mortified.” That weekend, Wilde, Penn and actress Megalyn Echikunwoke traveled to different universities in Iowa. They spoke to students, teachers, parents and siblings about their enormous power as Iowans, representing the home of the first Democratic caucus. Wilde said, “It was incredible to meet such inspired and motivated Obama supporters, who had so little in common with him personally. They seemed to find in him their own voice as citizens of a democratic country that has for too long ignored the youth as a powerful constituency and underestimated their desires and frustrations.” Wilde is currently shooting a movie called Year One with actors Jack Black and Michael Cera in Shreveport, Louisiana. Even while busy at work, Wilde took a day off to canvas for Obama in “the poorest neighborhood I have ever stepped foot in.” Wilde saw results of her efforts on February 9, when Obama won the Louisiana primary. Wilde has been interested in Obama’s career as a Senator for years, due to his consistently liberal voting record. She favors his continuous opposition to the war, his energy and healthcare plans, his plans to combat employment discrimination and eliminate sentencing disparities.