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Celebrity Comes To Campus

Ben Affleck Joins Joe Courtney In Packed SU

By Theresa Murphy
On November 6, 2006

Anyone who walked through the Student Union at 11 a.m. Friday would have realized that something big was going on. Students, faculty and the media filled the main lobby of the Union, with even more people crowding the stairs leading into the building and in the hallway of the ground floor.

Joe Courtney's second UConn visit was behind the excitement. Joe Courtney is the Democratic candidate for the House of Representatives in Connecticut's second district.

This time, however, Courtney brought some star power along with him- actor Ben Affleck.

"I know you guys are probably wondering, 'What's this guy doing here?' I'm not an expert in government," said Affleck, addressing the question in many people's minds about what a Hollywood actor has to do with a congressional election in Connecticut.

In the press room before the event and during his speech to students, Affleck explained that the second district of Connecticut "is a district that is going to be a deciding seat ... I think that this election in part is not just about regional politics ... there's an issue of competence and accountability."

"It's an extreme Republican Congress now," Affleck said, and went on to discuss the issues of Pell grant funding, rising tuition and the War in Iraq.

Affleck also discussed the importance of young voters.

"They can change the country, and in turn, the world," Affleck said.

When asked about his impact, Affleck said, "People don't necessarily see an actor and think, 'Okay, that's who I'll vote for.'"

Affleck also joked about why he is helping to campaign for Democratic candidates.

"When you're not the party in power, you've got to dig down deep, and here I am," he said.

When asked about the recent controversy over a joke made by John Kerry about the troops in Iraq, Affleck said, "Well, he's not a good comedian," but declined to discuss the issue further.

"Coach wouldn't let me come down here without the hat on," Affleck joked at the start of his speech to students, referencing not only the UConn hat he wore but also men's basketball coach Jim Calhoun, who shared the stage and also spoke to the press before the event in support of Courtney.

"I've known Joe for many years," Calhoun said. "I knew him when he wasn't successful, and I've known him since he became very successful."

Calhoun reached out to students during his speech, and urged them to vote on Nov. 7.

"Your life and your future is going to be decided on November 7th," Calhoun said. " ... We need change and this is the year for change. Make sure you vote."

"You have more power in your hands as a registered voter in the second congressional district than 90 percent of Americans," said Courtney at the start of his speech. "As Ben said, nobody has more at stake than the people in this room."

"My case for change has been a tough one," Courtney said.

Over the course of this election season, four Connecticut newspapers switched their endorsements from Republican incumbent Rob Simmons to Courtney, Courtney said.

"To anybody who says their vote doesn't count, every vote in this district is critical," said Courtney. "We've registered over 1,600 in this district, make sure you finish the job."

Students were inspired by the speeches, and for some it helped them with the decision they will make on Nov. 7.

"He [Courtney] definitely urged me to go out and vote. I didn't think I knew enough about the candidates to make a decision, but after coming here I know he's the one I want to vote for," said Kenna Thurston, a 3rd semester human development and family studies major.

"All the people and everyone getting excited to vote makes you realize that voting does make a difference," said Christen Linch, also a 3rd semester human development and family studies major.

The true impact of this event remains to be seen after voting takes place in tomorrow's election.

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