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'I couldn't stay on the sidelines': Former Olympic figure skater Michelle Kwan visits campus, emphasizes importance of college students voting

Michelle Kwan, the most decorated figure skater in U.S. history with two Olympic medals and five world championships, came to Duke Thursday to promote voter registration and campaign for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. The Chronicle's Claire Ballentine spoke with Kwan about her views on the election and why she supports Clinton.

The Chronicle: Why did you choose to campaign at Duke today?

Michelle Kwan: I've been traveling far and wide. We're doing our big push for voter registration, making sure students know that there's a lot at stake and making sure their [registration] info is up-to-date. Sometimes people may have moved, so [it's about] making sure their vote is accounted for. So we're reaching far and wide. Also, it's great for me to be here. A lot of my colleagues graduated from Duke, and I've performed here in Durham, so it brings back good memories.

TC: Why do you think it's so important for college students to vote?

MK: Young voters can make a huge difference in these elections. [We're] making sure that they're registered to vote and know that it's November 8... and that voters know what Hillary Clinton has put forward in terms of a comprehensive plan, when it comes to the issues that students will be affected by, like making college affordable so when they graduate they're not in debt—things that really impact them and that they care about.

TC: What issues in this election do you think most affect college students and how will Clinton address them?

MK: As I have sort of traveled around the country talking to students, [the issue] across the board is college affordability. And Hillary Clinton has put forward a comprehensive college compact that will affect people who have current debt but also students who are perhaps going into college. Also, we are a land of immigrants, and we have a candidate who is talking about building walls to divide us as opposed to breaking down barriers that are holding Americans back and building an economy that works for all, not just some.

Being on campus and talking to students, I've talked to some of my friends who had a celebratory evening... when they paid off their last college loan, and Hillary doesn't want that. We want students when they graduate to start a family, invest in a house, get their life started in the right track, whereas we have another candidate who's not talking about [college debt]. There are stark differences between the candidates. You can't just afford to sit out during the election. And I think a lot of people who were Bernie supporters are realizing that this is the most important election in their lifetime.

TC: Why did you choose to go into politics out of all the things you could have done?

MK: I didn't envision being on the presidential campaign, but I was working in diplomacy, I was working in the state department and then when I heard that Hillary was deciding to run, I couldn't stay on the sidelines. I jumped right in because I think she's the most qualified candidate, who just happens to be a women. Somebody who will continue to fight and build on the progress that President Obama has made.


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