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Hollywood star Alec Baldwin conveyed his life-long enthusiasm for political engagement at a John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum event on April 28. The actor — well known for his appearances in movies and the television shows "Saturday Night Live" and "30 Rock" — once planned to get a law degree and go into politics. However, his political science studies at George Washington University were cut short when he won a scholarship to New York University’s drama program.
"But I still had the passion for politics," said Baldwin. "It's been tough for me because I do care a lot about politics and I've fantasized about doing other things with my life, but I'm grateful for those organizations that have allowed me, with what I do for a living, to plug into [political] things over time."
Baldwin, an outspoken Democrat, champions many causes including environmentalism and campaign finance reform. "Just as I think campaign finance reform is the lynchpin of political problems in this country, I think that energy reform is the lynchpin of all the economic problems in this country," he said.
He noted that the success of candidates like Sarah Palin could be attributed to a culture of fear among Americans: "When you listen to the content of what [Sarah Palin] says, it's always easy to play off the fears of the American people… They're afraid that they're either going to not get something that they want or they're going to lose something that they already have. Americans are very afraid of a contraction of the American standard of living."
Baldwin also pulled no punches when offering his opinion of other actors who get in to politics, saying he had admiration for none of them. However, when Baldwin — who lives in Long Island, New York — was asked whether a run for office is in his future plans, he admitted that although there does not seem to be an obvious role for him in New York politics at the moment, "you never know what the future holds."
Following the Forum event, Baldwin was the first person to stay overnight in John F. Kennedy's old Harvard dorm room since its recent renovation. Baldwin, a friend of the Kennedy family, joked that the honor reflects the nature of Harvard: "Harvard can play off of being Harvard by saying 'We're not going to pay you an honorarium to come speak here, but you’re going to stay in JFK's dorm room.' And there's no wireless access in the room and there's no DVD, it’s just a bed and a copy of 'Profiles in Courage' and a lamp. And you just have the experience of kind of recreating the Kennedy ethos in this room."
The Forum conversation was interspersed with jokes from Baldwin and the moderator Rick Berke, national editor of The New York Times and Institute of Politics Senior Advisory Committee member. When Burke asked Baldwin if he found Sarah Palin attractive, Baldwin responded: "I’m not dead, Rick. I may be a Democrat but I’m not dead."
As well as sharing jokes and stories from the world of entertainment, Alec Baldwin shared his passion for policy issues. Photo credit, Martha Stewart.
"Just as I think campaign finance reform is the lynchpin of political problems in this country, I think that energy reform is the lynchpin of all the economic problems in this country." — Alec Baldwin