Youtuber Tyler Oakley inspired VCU students to vote, talk politics at recent campus appearance
VCU’s 30,000+ students are a valuable target for presidential campaigns this season, and efforts to help secure a win for Hillary Clinton were buffed by her campaign bringing Youtube celebrity and LGBTQ activist Tyler Oakley to campus yesterday.
Oakley’s presence caused a line to stretch around VCU’s compass as hundreds gathered to get selfies with the star, but not before registering to vote.
“Sometimes, while making content online, it feels like I’m screaming into the void,” said Oakley about why he’s taken on these in person appearances. He said these campus visits, often with first-time voters, can be exhilarating and refreshing.
“If my being present at a voter registration drive is what helps people identify with the importance of the election, I’ll spend any and every second possible being there,” he said. “I don’t want to wake up on November 9th wishing I did more.”
Over the course of several hours, Oakley met with fans and VCU students and gave them a chance to get involved in the political process in the most basic way possible – and it seems to have worked, with some students who were less politically aware prior to meeting the star getting more informed.
“Looking from the outside, I’m not too sure of the policies and stuff,” said Christian Miller, an 18-year-old psychology major. “It’s important to have someone who has our best interests in mind.”
He said the extent of his political knowledge led him to believe Trump doesn’t care about who he hurts and Hillary might do a better job.
“But still,” he said. “I think its important we look into who are candidates are and make a decision based on more than what is just put on social media.”
Those policy-focused conversations were something Jessica Rhee hopes to see more of as well as we get closer to election day.
Rhee, an 18-year-old fashion merchandising major, has been particularly involved in the campaign, working with VCU’s Campus Democrats to help register voters since the start of the semester. She said Trumps policy’s on immigration have turned her off. Between that and the candidates “bigoted” words, she’s been quite inspired to take action. But she also noted the media’s preference of scandals over real conversation on issues, like healthcare.
“Clintons emails and what Trump has said about women,” she said, not understating the relevance of either, but still wishing folks spoke “more about policy instead of interrupting people during debates.”
Similar to Rhee, 18-year-old Business major Nur Ozyildirim was also fired up over Trump’s anti-immigration rhetoric.
“Having an evil man-turn as president, who would nuke everyone, including us,” she said describing what a Trump presidency might look like. She was glad to see Oakley getting folks involved, noting she’s had people approach her about registering to vote in the past but she hadn’t thought much of it.
“People keep asking me to register and I’m like ‘gotta go to class, I will’ – but for Tyler Oakley I will,” she said.
Josue Turrubiates, a 20-year-old poli sci major who described himself as a queer person of color, was also pretty inspired by Trump’s stance on immigration. A child of immigrants who recently had or were still working towards citizenship, Turrubiates said between his heritage and his sexuality, he had a lot to loose if Trump wins. And Vice Presidential candidate Mike Pence, the Governor of Indiana made famous for signing and then repealing a “religious freedom” bill in his state, also concerned the young voter.
“He’s a raging homophobe is the best way I could say it,” he said, describing the GOP VP candidate. Turrubiates said the lack of LGBTQ issues being discussed at debates gave him cause for worry.
“It’s not a big thing they’re talking about,” he said. “I feel like there could be more discussion.”
Election day happens Nov. 8th, and the last day to register to vote in Virginia is this Monday, 10/17 - head here to check your registration status.
Interviews and photos by Megan Corsano, words by BK
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