Actor Richard Schiff encourages students to vote in election

Richard Schiff, an actor from the NBC drama The West Wing visited Carnegie Mellon last Thursday to show his for presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

Emulating the political ardency of his character on The West Wing, Schiff inspired the crowd of Carnegie Mellon students gathered outside the Cohon Center’s Connan Room about the importance not only of registering to vote in Pennsylvania, but also the importance of educating your peers about this necessity. Not many students are aware of this, but as members of the Clinton Campaign mentioned before Schiff arrived, Allegheny County is the most important county in the most important state of this election.

Schiff is an active member of the Democratic Party and this isn’t the first political campaign he has participated in. As a friend of Joe Biden, Schiff spoke to many audiences during Biden’s Campaign, rallying West Wing fans to apply their love for the fictitious world of politics to real life by casting their ballots.

To those not aware of the cult-like following for The West Wing, it may appear strange that major politicians such as Biden and Clinton would seek out a pretend Director of Communications to support their campaign instead of a real-life political figure. This is because The West Wing told the story of an idealistic presidency free of corruption and extreme partisan tension that currently hinder real presidential campaigns. The legacy of the character Jed Bartlet’s time in office on The West Wing lives on as Americans still wish for a heroic and united team like that which existed on their TV screens. The show tells a story of a heroic and united American leadership. The internet presence of fandom for The West Wing has become increasingly popular in young generations. This is why Richard Schiff’s opinion matters to many students on college campuses, regardless of the fact that he is known for playing a role in a TV show.

By speaking about his own experiences as an adolescent, Schiff reminded the audience that it is possible to incite desired change within America, be it through the democratic process or civil disobedience. Just one year before Schiff was born, Rosa Parks became an icon of the Civil Rights movement by refusing to move to the back of the bus. This being the context of his childhood, Schiff explained that the changes he saw throughout the Civil Rights movement during his adolescence and young adulthood instilled in him an admiration for social activism. With this came a belief in the necessity of participating in our democracy to achieve reform.

Schiff regards the various freedoms given to American citizens as being very powerful. He explains “It almost feels like if we have the right, then we have an obligation to take advantage of it.” The most important thing that Schiff wanted the audience to take away from his speech was that it is essential to discuss the election with peers, explain to them what Hillary Clinton stands for, and make sure that they get out to the polls and vote on election day. Schiff stated that historically, when the Democratic party votes, they win. What is meant by this is that one of the biggest issues for the Democratic Party is not gaining support in their opinions, but in voter turnout on election day.

Following Schiff’s speech a local Clinton campaign representative spoke, further emphasizing the importance of getting involved in the campaign. It was highlighted that as of Thursday, Sept. 14, there were only 54 short days until the election. It was further stressed that there is an urgency for Clinton supporters to register to vote and begin a dialogue with those around them. It was also stressed how essential it is that members of the Democratic Party volunteer in any way that they can for the campaign.