As the sound of students’ voices belting out the hit single, “Fight Song,” serenaded Penn’s LGBT Center, it was clear that something big was about to happen. Moments later, 1996 College graduate Elizabeth Banks stepped out and greeted a crowd of her fellow Quakers, met by cheering and waving.
Banks visited her alma mater on Monday to rally for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and register voters around campus. She has been a strong supporter of Clinton, emceeing a large part of this year’s Democratic National Convention in addition to co-producing and directing an a cappella version of Rachel Platten’s “Fight Song,” featuring a host of prominent celebrities endorsing Clinton. Banks has also been an advocate for reproductive rights and gun safety.
“In this election, we’re really looking in the mirror as a nation and going, ‘Do we want to live our ideal of equality, the one we based our entire country on, that we go around the world talking about, that our military fights for every day around the world? Or are we going to go backwards and elect Donald Trump?’” Banks said.
Penn for Hillary had an instrumental role in organizing Banks’ visit to campus.
“Every day matters now in terms of grassroots mobilization. This is an extraordinarily important time to be vocal and active on campus,” College senior and Penn for Hillary president Sam Iacobellis said. He added, “If you don’t vote in this election, you won’t have a say in a lot of the critical issues that this country is going to face. I think Hillary said it best: ‘The next 50 days are going to decide the next 50 years.’”
Banks said she grew up poor in western Massachusetts. She came to Penn on scholarship money and Pell Grants.
“I am a product of what shitty politicians refer to as ‘government handouts,’” she said.
Banks also went to Planned Parenthood for her medical care when she graduated from Penn, because she didn’t have a job that provided her with healthcare. She urged listeners to consider the benefits programs such as Planned Parenthood provide to those in need.
“I really believe that the people behind this country need to think about all the people in this country who need those policies in place so they can become someone like me, who gets to stand here, and talk to all of you about voting for the first woman president of the United States,” Banks said.
Iacobellis believes Penn is at a record-high level of political engagement and attributed Penn students’ political engagement in part to the institutional strength of the political organizations on campus. Groups such as Penn Democrats, College Republicans and the Government and Politics Association, “create an awareness of the community and the stakes of political engagement,” he said.
“I’m so thrilled to be here voting for Hillary, with Elizabeth Banks,” College freshman Nami Saraf said. “Elizabeth Banks stands with Hillary because it’s taken this long for a woman to become a presidential nominee, and she doesn’t want to retrogress on the path to gender equality.”
“Hillary Clinton as an inevitability, I find really funny,” said Banks. “If it were easy to elect a woman president, it might’ve already happened. You really will regret not voting in this election — it’s going to make history.” She added, “We need people who are going to promote ladies so that our economy grows, because we can’t rely on 50 percent. We need 100 percent.”
Banks asked the crowd of Penn students to raise their hands if they were voting in a presidential election for the first time, and happily exclaimed, “I’m so excited!” when the majority of hands in the room shot up. She recounted going to see a rally for Bill Clinton in downtown Philadelphia her freshman year at Penn and seeing Hillary there.
“Hillary Clinton has been that role model for me since 1992,” Banks said. “She’s my queen. She’s my democratic ideal.”
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