Clyburn will lead the Democratic Party’s efforts to increase voter participation. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
“Selma” may have been snubbed by the Oscars, but Rep. James E. Clyburn gave the civil-rights movie a very personal endorsement Wednesday during a Democratic Party news conference on voting rights.
The South Carolina Democrat, introduced at the event by Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi as the chairman of a new task force charged with increasing voter participation, shared an anecdote about how the movie about Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement of the 1960s resonated with one of his younger relatives:
I have now seen the movie, “Selma,” twice and I plan to see it again in this building next Tuesday evening. The second time I watched it was last week and I watched it sitting with my just-turned 18-year-old granddaughter. I didn’t say anything to her about the movie. I just told her that I was sponsoring the movie for members of — of my staff and others in the community.
We rented out a theater of 120 seats. Within two hours, we had to go back and get a 300-seat theater. But I was really focusing on my granddaughter, so I sat next to her during the movie. She was — she had her iPhone, doing what 18-year-olds do.
I’m — like a granddaddy; I’m scared to look at see what was going on on that iPad, so I kept looking forward. But she stayed, when even the movie came on, she didn’t turn off that iPhone until those little four girls was walking down the staircase in the church, going to their Sunday School room and the bomb went off.
At that point, she turned off her iPhone and intently watched the movie; even asked me at one point, a question about who that person was that was having a little interchange with John Lewis about whether or not to march, James Foreman, who was one of my best friends in the movement.
And I explained who James Foreman was and she was a little bit surprised to know that I — I knew him and he was a friend. But the next morning, when the movie was over, she went home. I got a call the next morning. She wanted to have lunch. And so I said OK.
And she told me what time and I — I objected to the time. And I said, ‘Well — well, can’t we do it a little earlier?’ She says, ‘No, because I’m going to register to vote. And when I finish my registration, I want to come and have lunch with you.’
And she brought some of her friends with her. And we talked about the movie. And we talked about voting. And when lunch was over, the rest of her friends; they left and went to the voter registration office.
I think that we’re at a time that young people, who seem not to be participating at the same level as young people did when I was young; that we can get people re-engaged once again. And that’s what this task force is all about.
Clyburn, the House’s No. 3 Democrat, will head the 11-person Democratic Outreach & Engagement Task Force, which will also include California’s Lucille Roybal-Allard and Barbara Lee; New York’s Nydia Velázquez, Hakeem Jeffries and Grace Meng; Indiana’s André Carson; Louisiana’s Cedric Richmond; Pennsylvania’s Matt Cartwright and Brendan Boyle; and New Mexico’s Michelle Lujan Grisham.
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