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One-on-One With Ashley Judd

Ashley Judd. Photo: Tanner Latham

Ashley Judd and her dog Buttermilk. Photo: Tanner Latham. Actress Ashley Judd was in Charlotte Sunday to stump for President Obama. She spoke at an event aimed at bolstering the female vote. And she sat down with WFAE's Tanner Latham to talk about her status as a celebrity, her role as a delegate for the upcoming DNC, and the influence her grandmother had in helping raise her and as a political activist. Ashley Judd: I had the privilege of being raised in part by grandparents who were part of the iconic American middle class. And it is so tragic to me that the American idea is not a part of the consciousness and reality of so many tens of millions of Americans today. And women are a crucial part of that. Tanner Latham: Your grandmother was a city commissioner. She had an interest in politics. So, when did your interest in politics come about? Is this something that was recent? I know that you supported Obama in 2008. But does it go back further than that? AJ: My Nana is to me a political hero at the community level. And she was inspired to run for office in Ashland, Kentucky, because a large corporation was tax exempt. She saw her neighbors carry an unfair share of the local tax burden while King's Daughter Hospital was exempt, exempt, exempt. And that's why she decided to run for office. Now, in many ways, that's where our political alignment ends, but what I continue to admire and support in both her and all Americans is the absolute and total duty to be educated about what's going on in your community's civic life and engaging in the political process on the national level as well. TL: There are some people out there who might roll their eyes when they hear about a celebrity who is adding his or her voice to politics. Why should we listen to this person? What gives this person an authority? AJ: Well, there's a lot in there, and several thoughts come to mind. One is, it's really none of my business what somebody thinks of me. And the other is, I'm sure that there are people who are a little contemptuous, but I wouldn't know, because I'm abstinent from all media about myself. And number three, in this capacity I don't consider myself, actually in no capacity do I consider myself a celebrity. I strenuously dislike that word. But particularly, in this capacity, I am an American. I am an American woman who has always been politically active. People may not know that about me. They may just want to see my movies or watch that TV show I did last year, or see my fabulous husband race, and that's okay. Take what you like and leave the rest. The Iran Contra Affair broke not long after I started at the University of Kentucky. And I was reading U2 liner notes when Joshua Tree came out, and learned about human rights abuses and organizations like Amnesty International. I find it astonishing that I can sit in Bangladesh and talk with women about access to modern family planning and their right to plan and space the births of their children and have that same conversation here in America. TL: You can't deny you're a celebrity. You might say that you consider yourself a citizen first, which is completely respectable. But lending your voice to this does get people's attention. We're havingI'm sitting down with you right now, and if you weren't the Ashley Judd, I don't know if we'd be sitting down talking, truthfully. So, transitioning into the DNC coming up in September, you're going to be coming back to Charlotte. Talk a little about what's going to be happening as a delegate from Tennessee. AJ: Well, I attended the convention in Denver, and it was one of the most extraordinary weeks of my life. The campaign obviously had that urgent and powerful slogan "Yes We Can." And the president came into office and had to do really serious triage. And now it's gotten to, "We Can't Wait." We can't wait. This is a golden opportunity, and it's a crucial opportunity to continue to turn things around. So I'm going to come to Charlotte and roll up my sleeves and see how I can support the president's ongoing policies for change. TL: That week, do you have a sense yet of what kind of schedule? Are you going to be pulled between delegate duties and duties as a celebrity? There's got to be a lot of pressure and pull for you to make appearances at various functions and parties. Do you know much about what's going to be happening that week for you? AJ: I will not be attending the daily 7:30 delegate breakfasts. This I'm fairly confident about. I may make the obligatory appearance at the first one and hopefully give people the appearance that I'm there everyday. But I ain't doing the 7:30 a.m. breakfast shuffle. Because I know the nights go late. But all jesting aside, of course my first and foremost obligation as a delegate from the state of Tennessee is to help cast the vote for our nominee for president of the United States, which will be a wonderfully auspicious moment. And I do work closely with several other organizations. Planned Parenthood, Emily's List, and in particular the National Democratic Institute, which is Secretary of State Albright's NGO which helps foster Democracy. And Planned Parenthood does crucial work allowing particularly lower income women access to a full range of health care services, particularly preventative care and whatever I can do for Planned Parenthood, I do. And it's not just about abortion, and I think that it's just so silly the way that conversation is hijacked so much. If we want to prevent abortion, we grant access to family planning, so we prevent unintended pregnancy. There's really no controversy in that. TL: Thank you so much for your time today. AJ: Thanks, Tanner. I appreciate your time, too.