Declare Yourself: Speak. Connect. Act. Vote. More than 50 Celebrated Americans Tell You Why

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Celebrated Americans-from Adrian Grenier to Amber Tamblyn to Hayden Panettiere to Alice Walker- share their compelling perspectives on voting and civic involvement in this one-of-a-kind book. Guest edited by actress America Ferrera, this collection of more than fifty essays and unique pieces explores topics ranging from "The First Time I Voted" to "Why the Personal is Political," all straight from the pens of public figures you know and admire. Read it-and then join them! ...

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Overview

Celebrated Americans-from Adrian Grenier to Amber Tamblyn to Hayden Panettiere to Alice Walker- share their compelling perspectives on voting and civic involvement in this one-of-a-kind book. Guest edited by actress America Ferrera, this collection of more than fifty essays and unique pieces explores topics ranging from "The First Time I Voted" to "Why the Personal is Political," all straight from the pens of public figures you know and admire. Read it-and then join them! Declare yourself.

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Editorial Reviews

Lisa Von Drasek
While the title screams tediously boring polemic, here's the shock—it's not. Yes, some of the thoughts contained are repetitious and obvious: Voting is good, and not voting is bad. Elections can and have been won or lost by one vote. And so on. But, for the most part, the writers passionately express their societal commitment.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly

In his foreword to this collection of celebrity testimonials to the importance of voting, Lear explains that he and his wife bought one of the 25 known remaining copies of the Declaration of Independence in 2001 and sent it on a "road trip." Inspired by the success of its tour, they asked themselves what the Declaration "might wish us to do to help advance its vision" and decided to promote voter registration; designed to reach young people. their nonpartisan group Declare Yourself was born. Teens are likely to find at least several contributors whose voices interest them: media stars (Tyra Banks, Rob Riggle), athletes (Mike James, Sasha Cohen), musicians (the members of Maroon 5, L'il Romeo), authors (Maya Angelou, Chris Crutcher), etc. Many of the contributors say much the same thing-that every vote counts-and hold up the example of the 2000 presidential election to make their case. The most memorable draw on family history, as in Alice Walker's moving description of her father, who walked past armed white men to become the first black voter in the county. An appendix lists resources for further political engagement. Ages 14-up. (June)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
VOYA - Brenna Shanks
Ranging from philosophical to anecdotal, these essays try to inspire and encourage active participation in the voting process. For the most part, they do a good job. Celebrities, writers, intellectuals, and other personas of note contribute their thoughts and stories about voting. Some are more moving than others. Some are funnier, and several are more poignant or pointed depending upon the author, but all are delivered with sincerity. With contributors ranging from America Ferrera, Tyra Banks, and Meg Cabot to Chris Crutcher, Adrian Grenier, and Alice Walker, the viewpoints are diverse and thoughtfully presented. This collection is a worthy addition to any school or public library although schools should be aware that some strong language is used. The final section of the book offers voting information and resources. Reviewer: Brenna Shanks
KLIATT - Claire Rosser
Declare Yourself is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that does not support or endorse any political candidate or party. Norman Lear is a founder, and he has written the Foreword to this book. Most of the brief essays by the 50 celebrated Americans urge readers to vote, but also to become involved in issues they care about, to be responsible citizens who are well informed and willing to speak out (through the Internet, for instance), to connect to others and act together to accomplish change. Some of the 50 essays are by older people such as Maya Angelou and Alice Walker; many are by famous actors, comedians, or musicians in their teens and 20s, such as Hayden Panettiere and Amber Tamblyn, and some are by young people already totally immersed in politics, such as the young mayor of Torrington, Connecticut (elected first when he was 22 years old). It escapes 50 ways to say exactly the same thing by using the personal experiences and individual interests and talents of each contributor. Taken altogether, the book is inspiring. It should at least get YAs to go on the Internet to find out more about specific candidates and issues—many websites are included. It should inspire young people to connect with organizations that are in line with their own talents and interests. And, it will tell young people everything they need to know about how to register to vote. Reviewer: Claire Rosser
Children's Literature - Karen Leggett
It is possible to encourage someone to vote either elegantly or colloquially, and Declare Yourself offers both. "Not voting is like being given a fabulous gift/And saying ‘Never mind, Too much trouble to take the wrapping paper off,'" from Naomi Shihab Nye. James Valentine, member of the band Maroon 5, says, "I do it for the sticker. I don't take it off all day. I love to announce to everyone that I fulfilled my civic duty by going over to my neighbor's weird garage, closing the curtain, and choosing the candidates that I feel can best represent me." Maya Angelou, Tyra Banks, America Ferrara, Amber Tamblyn, Norman Lear, Molly Ivins, Meg Cabot, Nick Cannon, Sasha Cohen, and many more have written short essays exhorting young people to get involved: "This is your world. Make sure it's your president." "The very act of voting is something we all can do where no one gets bumped to first class." Alice Walker tells of her father walking past three white men with shotguns to become the first black man in Liberty County, Georgia, to vote. There is plenty of cynicism about the American political system in these essays but also hope and a determination to make a difference. An extensive back section provides web outlets for political discussions (MySpace Impact Channel, TakePart.com, Think MTV), organizations to help people connect, voter registration information, and even a glossary that explains the electoral college. A perfect handbook for high school or college classes or home discussions. Reviewer: Karen Leggett
Children's Literature - Sara Rofofsky Marcus
More than fifty celebrities who are well known to the Young Adult audience contributed essays varying in length from one to ten pages addressing the need, the desire, the importance, and the obligation to vote in any election in the United States. Varying from true life stories to rants, from historical vignettes to personal reminiscences, each essay will find a home to hit in some member of the Generation Y. Not intended to be read cover to cover, the work will be a useful addition to any high school or public library aiming to encourage voting by the new generation, and also can be of interest to older apathetic voters as well. One error, however, is noted in the work, in the chapter by Henry Rollins, where he mentions that the right to vote was not earned by women and African Americans "until the late part of the nineteenth century" (p. 208). The book ends with a section about how to involve yourself, including many online methods which appeal more to the intended audience than the traditional methods most often known. There is also a time line of voting in U.S. history and a glossary of terms related to voting. A bibliography provides additional sources for those who prefer traditional means of gaining information. Reviewer: Sara Rofofsky Marcus
School Library Journal

Gr 9 Up

From America Ferrera (of Ugly Betty fame) to the artists of Maroon Five, 50 Americans encourage young adults to make their voices heard. This collection, comprised of vignettes, essays, interviews, and poems, ranges from the humorous (an essay by the editors of The Onion ), to the sacred (an interview with Ryan J. Bingham, 25-year-old mayor of Torrington, CT, whose dedication to politics is almost religious), to the slightly profane (an expletive-filled diatribe from Adrian Grenier, star of TV's Entourage ). Though the contributors all take decidedly different tacks, their common goal is obvious: to persuade young people to research the candidates and cast their votes on Election Day. The supplemental materials at the end of the book are plentiful and pertinent, including instructions on how to register to vote, ways to get involved in one's community, a comprehensive glossary of election-related terms, and a general overview of the United States Government. Though this book is obviously more relevant for the 2008 election season, it would be a solid additional purchase for both high school and public libraries.-Kelly McGorray, Glenbard South High School Library, Glen Ellyn, IL

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061473326
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 5/20/2008
  • Pages: 352
  • Age range: 14 years
  • Product dimensions: 5.60 (w) x 8.10 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Fifty-five well-known actors, writers, athletes, musicians, political figures, entrepreneurs, and more came together to create this book, with the common goal of convincing every American between the ages of 18 and 29 to register, vote, and get involved in the political process. From all political viewpoints and all walks of life, their revealing contributions are introduced by guest editor America Ferrera, an award-winning screen and stage actor, and Norman Lear, a veteran producer and activist, who founded the Declare Yourself organization.

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Read an Excerpt

Declare Yourself Speak. Connect. Act. Vote. More Than 50 Celebrated Americans Tell You Why
By Ricardo Declare Yourself
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. Copyright © 2008 Ricardo Declare Yourself
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780061473326


Chapter One

Maya Angelou

Why Voting Matters

One of the loneliest images I can bring to mind is that of a person without a country.

Americans at home and abroad are easily recognized because they walk, maybe even strut, with airs of confidence up and down the avenues of the world.

The attitude can be explained in the way Americans think.

"Yes, I can.

I am an American.

Yes, I can."

I believe that air comes from being able to vote. Each American feels that he or she has some authority over the laws and rules of our country.

We try to vote in the leadership we want, and to vote out those who displease us. Of course the majority will rule, which means there are winners and losers.Still, the voter who has not chosen the triumphant side knows that at least one vote has been cast for his or her choice.

The strength of the American would be drained from the proud shoulders, the lilt in the voices, and even the spring of the steps, without the right to vote. The citizen who does not vote weakens herself and her country, slights her ability to be an American citizen and a citizen of the world.I am proud to try to vote in the leaders I like and try to vote out those who do not earn my approval.

Watch me as I walk up anddown the streets of the world. Anyone who sees me must know that I am an American. I vote.

Maya Angelou is a writer, professor, and actor, perhaps best known for her memoir I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, as well as her poetry. Among her diverse accomplishments are her active role in the American civil rights movement, her writing and composing for television and film, and her reciting one of her poems at Bill Clinton's presidential inauguration.



Continues...

Excerpted from Declare Yourself by Ricardo Declare Yourself Copyright © 2008 by Ricardo Declare Yourself. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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  • Posted October 27, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Reviewed by Candace Cunard for TeensReadToo.com

    This book, directed at teens on the edge of the voting age, is brimming with essays by people who can't wait to tell you why you should vote. The "celebrated Americans" of the subtitle include everyone from athletes to movie stars to entertainment journalists, and for the most part, they all say the exact same thing: your vote really does count. <BR/><BR/>Some of the essays were better than others. The most enjoyable are those by authors who reveal something of their personal experience with voting and the political process. One contributor writes about the old lady he's seen working at polling places in his area for years; another writes about the vote her father cast for FDR that could have gotten him killed, since as a black man in the south he was practically forbidden from going to the polls. <BR/><BR/>My favorite essay in the entire book was Meg Cabot's defense of feminism, which she correctly defines as the desire for men and women to have equal rights, and which she points out has very little to do with wearing (or not wearing) bras, or shaving (or not shaving) one's legs. <BR/><BR/>For the most part, the contributors refrain from affiliating themselves with a specific political party, but a clever reader could easily decode their covert references to specific issues and make a good guess about where they stand. The contributors fall short when they begin to deliver platitudes, and at times the essays read like everything you've ever been told about why you should vote. <BR/><BR/>The main shortcoming of the book is hinted at by James Kotecki in his essay, "The Cynical Revolution." And that is: would someone who is actually apathetic about voting pick up and read this book? To this, I add a second question: if they did, would they be lucky enough to open up to one of the essays that's good enough to convince them to vote? <BR/><BR/>Overall, DECLARE YOURSELF is more likely to act as affirmation for those teens who've already made the decision to be voters. It does contain resources for people who think that voting means more than just casting a ballot on election day. The back of the book lists contact information for groups, organizations, political action committees, and others that readers may wish to contact. It also lists tips for getting involved in politics on the local level and offers a glossary of terms the aspiring politico needs to know. <BR/><BR/>It might not be the way to convince teens that voting is the cool thing to do, but it's reassuring to know that someone's making the effort to reach out to the age group with the lowest representation in the polls and get them to do something about it.

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