MTV’s Rock the Vote concert rocks campus

Bus tour touted voting awareness among students while offering four concerts and a host of entertainment venues | September 3, 2004

The Xavier University campus rocked to the sounds of new musical artists on Wednesday, Sept. 15, as MTV’s Rock the Vote bus tour stopped at the University offering four free concerts and a wide range of activities aimed at getting young people to the polls.

The event began at noon and continued until 4:00 p.m. Four bands played throughout the day on a stage set up in front of the Cintas Center near the statue of D'Artagnan. (See photo gallery.)

Students and the public attended free of charge, while Rock the Vote staff set up tables for voter registration, voter education and absentee ballots. Xavier student organizations were on hand to promote their groups. Other activites taking place around the concerts included a John Lennon educational bus equipped with a state-of-the-art recording studio; having a picture taken in a fake Oval Office; having cell phones recharged for free; and an area featuring an obstacle course in which participants tried to reach a voting booth first after going through a typical politician's day—jumping through hoops, kissing babies and slinging mud.

University President Michael J. Graham, S.J., spoke briefly to the crowd during a break between bands in the early afternoon, encouraging students to immerse themselves in the political process in the weeks leading up to the Nov. 2 election.

"One of the opportunities that we have that few people in the world do is the opportunity to argue with each other and decide who it is that’s going to lead us through the course of those debates," Graham said. "Our education here, as you know, is intended to prepare you for the future, because what we do here is about the world out there, ultimately. And unless you’re engaged in the political process, unless you guys are doing what you can to make your voices heard, you’re just sitting out and letting somebody else do your work for you.

"And so I want you guys to make sure that over the next couple of weeks, you do everything you can to listen, to read, argue with each other, debate, look at stuff in the newspaper, go to rallies, support candidates, get out there, go door to door if you can—if you have the time—to endorse issues and candidates to make sure that you make your voices heard."

The stop at Xavier is one of 25 stops on Rock the Vote's Campus Invasion Tour of colleges across the Midwest and South leading up to the Nov. 2 election, said tour manager Lindsey Berman.

Before coming to Xavier, the tour stopped at Kent State University, Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa., and Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. From Xavier, it moves on to the University of Texas, Florida State University, Oklahoma State, Washington University in St. Louis and the University of Wisconsin at Madison, among others. Prior to the college leg of the tour, Rock the Vote visited public venues and conferences across the country this summer, and staged concerts in Boston and New York simultaneous with the Democratic and Republican national conventions.

The non-partisan bus tour is sponsored by Sunkist, Cingular Wireless, Motorola, America Online instant messaging and Ben & Jerry’s. Tour partner MTV is using Rock the Vote as its primary voter registration method. MTV aims to register 20 million new voters, according to information on the tour’s website.

But Berman, 24, said Rock the Vote is about more than merely registering voters; the idea is to educate young people on the issues and get them excited about participating in the political process.

"In this election, young people have the potential to really be the swing vote," she said. "And we need to be. We need to flex our muscles in that regard, because how can we expect the politicians and people in Washington and the state capitols to address the issues that really concern young people unless we make them? And we make them by showing that we’re a powerful constituency, and if they don't listen to us, well then we’ll vote them out."

The musical groups in the lineup were: Future Leaders of the World, Dan Dyer, Wyld Bunch and Tyler Hilton. The music included a mix of styles with rock as the central theme.

Sophomore Alex Kenney, event organizer and president of the new student group University Patriots, was the driving force behind getting the tour to Xavier. He said he wanted to nab the Rock the Vote tour since the student government association approved creation of the University Patriots club last spring.

Local costs for the event were shared by student government, the office of the president and residence life. The University paid for security, catering, water, stage hands and other necessities for the MTV crew and the bands.

“The 2004 election is a wonderful opportunity for students to be informed about, reflect upon and take action on key issues facing our democracy,” said Ron Slepitza, vice president for student development. “The series of programs sponsored by the student government association, of which Rock the Vote is one, is a fine example of students taking on this responsibility in a comprehensive and serious fashion.”