Gyllenhaal speaks on campus

One of People Magazine's 50 hottest bachelors captivated a Marquette audience Tuesday with a political speech in the Alumni Memorial Union.

Jake Gyllenhaal, star of "Donnie Darko" and "The Day After Tomorrow," spoke about democratic presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry and the right to vote to a crowd of about 200 students.

"This is the most important election in our lifetime," Gyllenhaal said. "It will affect our children and our children's children."

The Marquette College Democrats and Marquette Students for Kerry sponsored the actor's appearance.

Gyllenhaal's speech did more than encourage Kerry supporters to volunteer on Election Day, according to Meredith Salsbery, chair of College Democrats and a senior in the College of Arts & Sciences.

"Jake didn't necessarily know all the points of John Kerry's health care plan or anything like that and we're not asking him to," Salsbery said. "What he's doing here is helping undecided (voters) get more interested in John Kerry."

Gyllenhaal's lack of authority is exactly what should discourage voters from basing their opinions on his views, said Students for Bush Chairman Daniel Suhr, a College of Arts & Sciences junior.

"When you're looking for what should sway your decision, the words of a Hollywood hottie shouldn't be the determining factor when there are so many hard facts and important issues about keeping this country safe," Suhr said.

Despite Gyllenhaal's contested authority, the 23-year-old said he is certain young voters are a potent demographic and can sway the November election.

"We are the people who can decide this election," Gyllenhaal said. "We can decide who our next leader is and that is incredibly empowering, especially in a country where a lot of times as a young person you don't feel that empowered."

The Hollywood star encouraged students to vote and said Wisconsin voters' ability to cast their ballots early is a "privilege" he and other Californians do not possess.

"That is cool as shit," he said.

Gyllenhaal's freedom of vocabulary was a welcome change from presenters bound by red tape for one student at the gathering.

"I really appreciated the fact that he was a pretty candid speaker," said Ed Speck-Kern, a College of Engineering freshman.

Arts & Sciences freshman Jennifer Priebe said she thought Gyllenhaal's visit was important.

"I think celebrities have a lot of influence in society," she said. "If they have opinions I think it's good that they show it so people can either figure out if they believe that or it at least raises awareness."

Playing to the mostly female audience, the young actor said strong women around Kerry will help him improve the country.

He also mentioned his recent travels around the world to promote "The Day After Tomorrow" opened his eyes to perceptions of the current president.

"Nobody is really enthusiastic about George Bush," Gyllenhaal said. "They were scared and they made fun of him. That's not a good sign."

Gyllenhaal said he would make about five stops in Wisconsin, including Kenosha, before rallying voters in Minnesota.

He also reminded the audience about the shuttle service sponsored by the College Democrats, which will transport early voters to City Hall every half-hour. The service runs from North 14th and West Wells streets between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday.