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Jay Paterno, Coquese Washington Rally Young Voters

by on September 27, 2012 6:00 AM

Six weeks away from the day after Election Day, some of Penn State's best-known names convened in Heritage Hall on Wednesday evening to drive home the importance of voting.

The nonpartisan event was sponsored by PSU Votes, a nonpartisan town-gown initiative.

Former Penn State quarterbacks coach Jay Paterno was introduced first. In 2008, Paterno served as a surrogate speaker for Barack Obama's campaign. His speech on Wednesday to the crowd gathered at the HUB-Robeson Center's Heritage Hall reminded students of how integral casting a vote is to their future and the sacrifices so many made in the past so that every citizen can cast a vote today.

"It left many bruised, beaten, battered and bloodied ... all to bequeath a right to you," Paterno said. 

Coquese Washington, head coach of the Penn State women's basketball team, took the podium to speak about what fuels her passion to vote. She spoke about her father and her uncles who grew up in Mobile, Ala.

As young black men growing up during an era of intense racism in the South, they were banned from places like swimming pools, forced to swim in a creek in the woods and were refused service from restaurants that only served whites. He and his brothers were even once part of a sit-in for equality. 

Washington, who grew up in Flint, Mich., said she doesn't take her right to vote and the rest of her civil liberties for granted.

"My father went on to tell me that we changed, we changed our society because we understood there were two things that needed to happen: we needed to have access to equal education and we needed to be able to exercise the right to vote," Washington said. 

The speakers were followed by a short civics lesson focusing on political discourse, presented by David Brinker, a graduate student studying Communications Arts and Sciences. 

A brief question-and-answer session followed the speeches, and the question was posed: "How can we best inspire students to vote who were not here tonight?"

"Some of the arguments that we made here tonight about the future of the country, I think people have to talk to fellow students and say, 'Either you're in or you're out,'" Paterno said.

"There's tremendous spirit on this campus, a tremendous sense of community. They have to challenge them ... show they're engaged."

Jay Paterno

Coquese Washington

Laura Nichols is a news reporter and @LC_Nichols on Twitter.
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