In this segment of Washington Watch, Kerry Washington discusses politics, voter suppression, support of Pres. Obama and the importance of the arts in education.
Of course, last week we had an opportunity to chat with Kerry Washington. She is the star of ABC’s “Scandal.” Here is the second part of our interview with her.
MR. MARTIN: All right, Kerry. Now, you love your politics as a part of the show, but what a lot of people don’t realize is that you are a crazy political geek. You and I text back and forth.
MS. WASHINGTON: [Laughs.]
MR. MARTIN: We talk. And you also spoke at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, so I want to play a snippet of your speech, where you electrified the crowd.
[BEGIN VIDEO CLIP.]
MS. WASHINGTON: Today, there are people out there trying to take away rights that our mothers, our grandmothers and our great-grandmothers fought for. Right? That we fought for – our right to vote; our right to choose; our right to affordable, quality education, equal pay; access to healthcare. And we, the people, cannot let that happen.
[AUDIENCE CHEERING AND APPLAUSE.]
[END OF VIDEO CLIP.]
MR. MARTIN: Now, Kerry, you had folks excited. They were clapping. And, again, you’re not one of these folks in Hollywood who sort of pops into a campaign just for the heck of it. You really are into this stuff.
MS. WASHINGTON: I am. You know, I meant what I said in that speech that I really – I don’t understand it when people say to me, “I” – “I just don’t have time to think about politics,” because politics is always thinking about us. Politics is real. You know, the decisions that are made in Washington affect what you eat, what you wear, where you go, where you can go to school, how you live your life, how you drive. All of these things in our lives are impacted by the decisions made in Washington, so we can’t afford to not participate.
I also, Roland – and we’ve had this conversation before. I’m very aware of how many people sacrificed so that I could have a political voice. E- —
MR. MARTIN: Right.
MS. WASHINGTON: — just as a woman, when I think about women spending 80 years to get the vote for women – women like Susan B. Anthony going to prison in their petticoats and corsets –
MR. MARTIN: Sojourner Truth.
MS. WASHINGTON: — so that I could have –
MR. MARTIN: There ya go.
MS. WASHINGTON: — a voice as a woman – yeah, that – yes, “Ain’t I a woman?” – or, women and men in the Civil Rights Movement who put their lives on the line so that I could not just have my right to vote, but exercise my right to vote, it would just be disrespectful for me to not participate in my democracy.
MR. MARTIN: Now, you obviously are a big supporter of President Obama. You were a surrogate in 2008. You’re also a surrogate, talking to folks, helping to rally the folks in 2012. Why did you say, ‘I want to personally invest myself so much in his original campaign,’ but also this reelection effort?
MS. WASHINGTON: Well, you know, for me back in 2008, I – this isn’t new for me. I also worked on the Kerry campaign before. I’ve all- — I’ve always been involved with politics. I grew up in a household where it was important to participate in politics. When I became of age to vote, my parents treated that as a huge celebration, an important rite of passage. They were proud of me that I was of voting age.
And I think more of us need to do that in our families so that our kids are encouraged to participate. I have very cool parents.
MR. MARTIN: [Chuckles.]
MS. WASHINGTON: But – you know, in – in 2008, I – I knew – and – and I feel the same way now – our country is at a time where we cannot afford to elect a president who does not have all of our best interests at heart. You know, we cannot afford to elect a president who only cares about the wealthy few Americans, the Americans who already have, and is trying to disenfranchise or disempower other Americans. We have too much on the line as women.
MR. MARTIN: Right.
MS. WASHINGTON: We have too much on the line as parents. There’s just too much at stake – with regard to education, healthcare, even just go- — what’s going on right now in terms of voter suppression. It’s striking to me that one side is invested in all Americans having the right to vote, and another side is trying to make it more difficult for Americans to vote. How is that American?
You know, like I said in my speech, “We, the people” – it – it has become more and more inclusive through history. We can’t afford to go backwards. We can’t afford to go backwards economically, politically. We just can’t afford it.
MR. MARTIN: Debbie Allen – she and I went to the same high school, different eras – Jackée’s high school in Houston –
MS. WASHINGTON: Oh, I didn’t know that.
MR. MARTIN: — and she would be upset if I didn’t ask you this question. She’s a huge champion of the arts. When she was on our Hollywood show in L.A. –
MS. WASHINGTON: Yeah.
MR. MARTIN: — a few months ago, we talked about that.
You sit on the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities. Please explain to our –
MS. WASHINGTON: Yes.
MR. MARTIN: — audience in an era where we’re making all kind[s] of education cruts [sic – phonetic] – cuts across the country, why it’s important for us to have drama and band. I was in the band in elementary, junior high school and high school. Have the arts in school – it – it matters just as much as math, science, reading and writing.
MS. WASHINGTON: Well, you know, the research is there. And too often, we look at the arts as things – as electives, a- — as classes that can kind of just be sprinkled over science, math and reading and history.
But the truth is when we look at all of the problems that we’re facing in our education system right now, the arts is not an elective. The arts is the key that can unlock the solution to our biggest challenges. So, for example, the research is there that when schools have integrative arts education, kids show up for school in higher numbers. They stay in school in higher numbers, and they graduate at higher numbers. So, here are three, enormous problems we’re facing in [the] edu- — education system, and when we throw arts in the mix, those problems are solved more easily.
Also, in order for us to compete in this global economy, it’s not enough for us to teach students to just answer questions on a test. We can’t teach for the sake of just memorization. We have always been a powerful nation because of our ability to innovate, to create, to think outside the box. And we learned to do that not by teaching kids how to answer questions on a test, but by teaching kids how to think creatively. And that happens through arts education, because when you’re taking a dance class, or a music –
MR. MARTIN: Right.
MS. WASHINGTON: — or a drama class, you are faced every day with problems that only you know how to answer. Only you know how to get your fingers on the keyboard in a way to make that song happen in that way. Only you know how to solve that problem in that dance movement in your body in a particular way. And when you do, when you practice the arts and humanities, you are exercising your brain in ways that help you to become a problem solver.
Einstein talked all the time about when he faced a problem he couldn’t solve in math, he went off and practiced his music; and that would lead him to the solution.
MR. MARTIN: Folks, you definitely have to check her out in “Scandal” on ABC every Thursday, 10 a.m. Eastern. S- — I’m sorry. 10 p.m. Eastern.
MS. WASHINGTON: [Chuckles.]
MR. MARTIN: And so we watch the hash tag on twitter called “Gladiators.” We’ll be tweeting about it.
MS. WASHINGTON: Yes?
MR. MARTIN: — [I] always love to chat with you –
MS. WASHINGTON: Thank you.
MR. MARTIN: — and see you. And good luck with it.
MS. WASHINGTON: Oh, thank you, Roland. Thank you so much for having me.
MR. MARTIN: Thanks a bunch.