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“Divergent” Star Shailene Woodley on Bernie Sanders, DNC Caravan & Speaking Out in Hollywood

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Ahead of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, the television and film actress Shailene Woodley has launched a cross-country caravan campaign to bring people to the DNC in Philadelphia. Dubbed the “Up To US Caravan to the DNC,” Woodley is hoping to bring grassroots activists—including many Bernie Sanders supporters—to the DNC. Woodley appeared in the TV series “Secret Life of the American Teenager” and has starred in films including “The Divergent Series” and “The Fault in Our Stars.” She received a Golden Globe nomination for her role as Alex King in “The Descendants,” in which she starred alongside George Clooney.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Shailene, can you explain what your campaign is all about?

SHAILENE WOODLEY: Yeah, so our—I mean, Josh just mentioned, it’s all about unity. It’s all about unifying and mobilizing the momentum that has been built because of Bernie Sanders, specifically amongst millennials and first-time voters in this election. After the California primary, there is a lot of Bernie Sanders supporters who felt—felt like they were giving up. They felt defeated, they felt hopeless. They felt like, “I went out there, I voted, my vote wasn’t counted.” There’s still a million votes that haven’t been counted in California. There’s a lot of confusion and a lot of anger in feeling disenfranchised by being an American citizen and not being able to actually participate, and voting for someone who didn’t get elected, which happens constantly—right?—or who isn’t the presumptive nominee for the Democrats.

And after the primary, I sat there, and I was—because I’ve never been political before. This was my first time engaging in politics, because I felt like there was a candidate who actually spoke the truth and spoke to me and didn’t give the voice to millennials, but heard the voices of millennials. And I thought that that was really profound and a very special moment to capitalize on. And I just—I constantly see people my age, people in their twenties, people in their late teens, people in their early thirties, who are feeling hopeless and feeling like no matter what they do, nothing is going to change politically.

And we can’t have that happen, because what needs to happen for our country, for the world, is, moving forward, we need to get progressives in office, so that we have more opportunities to elect people like Bernie Sanders. It’s bigger than this 2016 election, and that’s what I wanted to start with some friends—the Up to US Caravan. It’s a movement of peace. It’s a movement of love. We’re going to the DNC, not to protest with aggression, not with anger, but really to encourage American citizens, specifically young people, but all people, to stay involved politically, because what happens up in our government affects us on a micro level. There’s so much that—you can do a lot on a grassroots level, as a grassroots activist. But eventually you hit a wall of governance. And when you hit that wall, you want to—you want to have somebody on the other side who’s willing to hear you and listen to you. And again, the only way that’s going to happen is if we get progressives in office. The only way to get progressives in office is to keep them politically engaged.

So, this is really—you know, we’re fundraising. We’re going to fund the whole thing so that people who are working two, three, four jobs, who generally don’t get to participate in movements like this, are able to join, because it’s important to us that everyone is represented, every single different background, every single different religion, people who aren’t even Democrats, independents, people who are Hillary supporters, Bernie supporters. To us, it doesn’t matter, because we recognize that, again, it’s bigger than this 2016 election, but it’s also bigger than the one person who’s in office. Leadership—the people have a lot of power. But we only have power if we stand together in solidarity and demand it. And that’s something that I think Bernie awakened in people, is realizing, “Oh, wow, I can talk about—I can say that the system is broken right now, that it is broken. But we can fix it.” And the only way we’re going to fix it is if we stand together and we unify.

And I think, you know, the events that have happened over the past week, that’s only added to our movement, in saying, at first, you know, we thought we’d caravan to the DNC and talk about voter suppression and possible election fraud and other things that have transpired in the last few months, but now it really is—it’s a movement by and for the people to say there’s a lot of suffering, there’s a lot of anger and rage, and there’s a lot of sadness, but there’s also a lot of hope, and there’s a lot of resilience. And if we can combine forces—you’re seeing it with Black Lives Matter movements. All movements are united now. No movement is alone. And we have more power if we stand together than if we stand in solitude. So—

AMY GOODMAN: So, Shailene, can you explain what the Up to US Caravan to the DNC is—


AMY GOODMAN: —how it’s physically traveling across the country?

SHAILENE WOODLEY: So, we have one starting in Los Angeles, we have another one starting in Portland. And we’re going to be crossing states until we get to Philadelphia, where we’ll meet. Every single state that we stop in, each night we’re going to have community meetings with lead organizers from those communities, leading activists, and hear about what troubles them. When we’re in Boulder, Colorado, we’re going to talk about fracking. When we’re in South Dakota, we’re going to meet with Standing Rock reservation from North Dakota. When we’re in Ferguson, we’re going to talk about police brutality. There’s—every place that we go, we want to learn about the different struggles our brothers and sisters in neighborhoods that we don’t necessarily live in are going through, just to educate ourselves, just to spread knowledge, and to realize that there’s a lot of work to do. It’s easy to feel insular in our bubbles. And so, this—as we cross these states, it’s not just about getting to the DNC. It’s about learning all of the different things that trouble our citizens and that our citizens have to go through, and learning that if we, again, stand together, we’re more powerful. So, how can we support you?

AMY GOODMAN: I want to turn to comments made by former Democratic Ohio state senator, Bernie Sanders supporter, Nina Turner. She was asked on MSNBC why Sanders hadn’t yet endorsed Clinton three weeks after the California primary.

NINA TURNER: There’s an awakening of people, if you will, both on the left and the right, understanding very clearly that people in this country deserve more. As Senator Sanders has pointed out, he seeks to take his 1,900 delegates to that convention and to continue to push for the most progressive Democratic platform that we’ve ever had in the Democratic Party’s history, number one, and, number two, to make sure that not only do we have the requisite platform language, but also that we have the commitment to the policy implementation that is going to be needed to lift the people in this country.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you respond to that, Shailene? And also, today, the big meeting at Portsmouth High School in New Hampshire, where Bernie Sanders is expected to endorse Hillary Clinton—will you also be switching your support?

SHAILENE WOODLEY: My support has always been by and for the people. And I can’t speak and say that I will immediately endorse Hillary Clinton. I don’t know what I will do. But I do know—and like Nina said, this is a moment in history that in 50 years from now, I think Bernie Sanders, we’re going to look in our history books, and people are going to see, wow, this man did so much for our country, that we’re talking about on Democracy Now!, but they’re not talking about this on mainstream news yet. And that’s what, to me, Nina’s statement—that’s why this caravan is so important, because there’s a lot of people who are Bernie supporters or Hillary supporters, but aren’t paying attention to what happened in Orlando. They’re not—they don’t know what’s going on, because they’re not—they’re not watching the news, or they’re not keeping up with it.

And so, I feel like it’s our job to keep that momentum going and spread that education and be like, “Look, these are our victories. We actually are winning.” Like Josh said, this is revolutionary when it comes to what we’ve accomplished in terms of climate change within the Democratic Party. That is major. And so, if I can be a small voice in just encouraging others to look at those facts and realize, yes, you win some, you lose some, but we’re on the right path. We are going somewhere. We’re making progress. We’re moving forward—

AMY GOODMAN: Shailene—

SHAILENE WOODLEY: —and to keep that momentum alive.

AMY GOODMAN: Food justice is an issue that’s close to your heart. Can you explain what that is and how you see this fitting into politics today?

SHAILENE WOODLEY: Food justice. Is that what you said?


SHAILENE WOODLEY: Yeah, food justice is incredibly important to me. I mean, we see it all over, right? We see—we see marginalized communities, who a lot of times live in food deserts, who don’t have access to healthy food; therefore, they become obese a lot of the times. They have a lot of medical issues. Diabetes is off the charts as far as where it lies in our country right now, especially amongst kids. And then, you know—and, of course, because these communities don’t have access to good healthcare, they suffer.

And so, I feel like it’s our job, politically, if we want to—if we want to encourage and give everyone an empowered life in our country, we have to start at this simple thing of just survival. If people aren’t given the chance to survive and thrive, then what kind of a life are we setting up for them as a government? I’m working on an initiative right now to get food stamps available online, because then people who do live in food deserts, in areas where they only have one choice for food and it’s a tiny little market and there’s nothing healthy in there, everything’s processed, and later on have health problems because of it, if we can have food stamps available online, then these people will be able to order healthy food for the same price. It’s not going to cost them any more than what they’d be able to afford at their local grocery store.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to go back to Josh Fox on the issue of the TPP. Donald Trump has spoken out forcefully against the TPP. In fact, he compared the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal to rape, saying, quote, it’s “done and pushed by special interests who want to rape our country,” just kept repeating this, “just a continuing rape of our country. That’s what it is,” he said. Speaking earlier in the day in Pennsylvania, Trump vowed to withdraw from the TPP.

DONALD TRUMP: I want you to imagine how much better our future can be if we declare independence from the elites who led us from one financial and foreign policy disaster to another. Our friends in Britain recently voted to take back control of their economy, politics and borders.

AMY GOODMAN: So, that’s Donald Trump, certainly speaking out much more forcefully about this than Hillary Clinton, sounding more like Bernie Sanders on the issue of the TPP.

JOSH FOX: I mean, the question here is: Who’s a bigger hypocrite? Right? But this is absolutely baffling to me. How could the Democrats vote for the TPP? They are handing an issue over to Donald Trump that is extremely popular in the Rust Belt states, that they absolutely need to win. TPP would weaken our environmental regulations. It would ship jobs overseas. It would do so many things to undermine the basic core values of the Democratic Party. And more importantly, it links Hillary to the previous policy of NAFTA, which is incredibly unpopular. The TPP is like NAFTA on steroids. I do not understand what the strategy is at the Democratic headquarters, at the Clinton campaign, that is saying we should do this. I think they could lose the election over this, and this is extraordinarily important.

And this is one of the reasons why I think we do have to show up in Philly, because, you know, our revolution, as Shailene said—Bernie Sanders has—we owe him a huge debt of gratitude. But at the same time, the only way I see a path forward in getting the Democrats off of the TPP is just like with fracking, is just like with all these other issues. We have to show up in the streets. We have to organize. We have to make our point.

AMY GOODMAN: Will you be showing up at the RNC?

JOSH FOX: No, I’m not going to the RNC.

AMY GOODMAN: And, Shailene Woodley, will you be?


AMY GOODMAN: Why have you chosen not to?

SHAILENE WOODLEY: I actually can’t go, because I’m working. So, it wasn’t an option for me.

AMY GOODMAN: So, let me ask you, finally—we do a lot on art and resistance. You live in the world of Hollywood. You’re a famous film star and television star. Can you talk about the atmosphere within that world and how much activism you see there and what you’re trying to do within your own workspace?

SHAILENE WOODLEY: You know, things are changing really quickly because of technology. Because of technology, you don’t have to be a famous movie star to make an art piece about activism. Right? People can just use their iPhones and make a movie. And we’re seeing that more and more when we go to film festivals. You see more documentaries from young people who just picked up their phone or bought a cheap camera and filmed something and are telling a story or narrative pieces. And those films are being bought by small studios, and they’re being projected, and they’re being put out there.

I think, because of where the world is now, Hollywood is recognizing that you can make these big films, you can make films like Divergent, you can make the Marvel films, and those have their place, but we also have to make films that people can relate to, because what cinema allows, it’s a form of escapism. And if all escapism is escaping from disaster, then what are we—what are we escaping to? So, where are the movies where we can escape to hope? And that’s what I want to—to sort of be a beacon of light for in this industry, is acting in films and then also, one day, directing. How can I make movies about issues that matter, that affect people and also give them that cinematic release, but leave them feeling engaged and activated in a way that they need to hit the streets and start doing something? Because it’s one thing to want change, it’s another thing to actually show up to create change and realize change all the way to its finality. So—

AMY GOODMAN: Are you concerned about being penalized for expressing your political views?

SHAILENE WOODLEY: I’m not, because I’m an artist. I think, you know, a lot of—there is a lot of fear in this industry about speaking out politically. A lot of Hollywood has been a Hillary Clinton supporter, and when I—or are Hillary Clinton supporters. And when I came out as a Bernie Sanders supporter, at first a few friends were like, “Oh, I don’t know that you should be so public about this.” But, for me, it’s never even really been about Bernie Sanders. I agree with his policies. I agree with his truth and his honesty and his integrity. But I’m about democracy. And that’s what—I don’t have that fear, I think, of people—of the backlash that could come towards me, because all I’m speaking about is democracy. I’m speaking about everyone being able to vote, everyone having a chance to participate in our electoral process. And there’s not really a—there’s not really any negativity that can come from that.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you both for being with us. Shailene Woodley, television and film actress, appeared in the TV series Secret Life of the American Teenager, has starred in films including The Divergent Series, The Fault in Our Stars, received a Golden Globe nomination for her role as Alex King in The Descendants. And she’s launched a cross-country caravan campaign to bring people to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia later this month.

Democracy Now! will be broadcasting from the Republican convention in Cleveland, as well as the Democratic convention in Philadelphia, expanding our coverage to two-hour specials every weekday starting next week in Cleveland.

And, Josh Fox, thanks so much for being with us, director of How to Let Go of the World and Love All the Things Climate Can’t Change, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival earlier in the year, is now playing on HBO. His former films include Gasland, the documentary which first exposed the harms of the fracking industry, nominated for an Academy Award, also made Gasland 2, which aired on HBO.

This is Democracy Now! When we come back, the history of gun reform. What does it have to do with Ronald Reagan, the Black Panthers and the Ku Klux Klan? Stay with us.

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