July 19, 2012
By Lee Hernandez
The Latino community is really important to actor and activist Wilmer Valderrama. So much so, that in 2004, the "That '70s Show" star co-founded Voto Latino -- a non-profit organization dedicated to bringing new and diverse voices into the political process by engaging youth, media, technology and celebrities to promote positive change.
One of the priorities for Voto Latino has been to creatively and effectively use celebrity voices to register more than 120,000 young Latino voters, mobilizing them to speak out and take action on policies impacting their lives and the Latino community. Valderrama, who in addition to co-founding the organization is also producing and directing PSAs for Voto Latino and serving as the spokesperson for the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, tells The Huffington Post that he will be lending his voice to the 2012 election.
"I do a lot of stuff with the White House and a lot of stuff with Congress yearly," he says. "You will definitely see me and Rosario [Dawson] causing some chaos during the elections for sure -- specifically, we'll be trying to tell Latinos how important it is for them to register to vote, and most importantly, to actually show up."
Valderrama says he believes that despite there being more than 50 million Latinos in the United States, according to the latest Census data, the country's political parties don't take Latinos seriously. "They go, 'yeah, sure, you guys are 50 million plus in America, but you're not showing up in the polls,'" Valderrama explains. "So we become an irrelevant mass."
The 32-year-old actor adds that while Voto Latino has done a great deal to mobilize Latino voters, the organization can't do it alone. "We're only as powerful as what our people are willing to do," he says. "Basically, we need for the Latino community to stop the bullsh** and understand that the Latin community in America needs them to wake up and actually engage. I just don't think they understand how important it is -- that one vote actually does count."
"If we don't do that as a community, man, let me tell you. Unfortunately they're just going to advertise at us, as opposed to, with us."
Valderrama says he thinks Latinos need to stop procrastinating. "We talk a big game," he explains, "but then our masses don't show up. We say that the Latino community is here to stay and that we're 50 million plus, well, let's show the world that we really count. We can't be wearing a flag unless we're willing to ride and die for it."
And even though Valderrama is busy mobilizing Latino voters, he says he still hasn't decided which presidential candidate has the needs of Latinos more at heart. "You know what? It's yet to be seen, to be completely honest. I think at this point, there's a lot they have to do and a lot of subject matters they all have to speak on, and I think that a lot of them are tip-toeing around the real issues that we as a Latino community have," he says.
Valderrama says when it comes to the election, he wants to ask the "hard questions."
"I want to ask what we're doing about immigration reform, what we're doing about spreading illness that Arizona is starting -- there's a lot of stuff that none of them are addressing. And if they address it, they go, 'You need to go out there and do it,' and I'm like, 'Bro, I mean, you're in a seat for a reason!'" he laughs.
"We elected you so you can fight our battles!"
Source: Baldwin Park Patch