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Youth get lessons in civic responsibility from WWE star

Posted: Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Kenai Peninsula skies may have looked clear last week, but a hurricane was a-brewing.

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Teenagers can find voter registration forms and this year's presidential candidates' answers to the 18-30 VIP questions online at the Smackdown the Vote Web site at vote.

Hurricane, the World Wrestling Entertainment star, that is.

The green-haired entertainer, also known as Shane Helms, blew through the central peninsula area, making stops at Skyview and Nikiski high schools to discuss the importance of voting with teenagers.

The tour is part of "Smackdown Your Vote," a WWE program affiliated with Rock the Vote and sponsored in part by the League of Women Voters. Pro-wrestlers visit schools to promote voting among the 18- to 30-year-old demographic.

Program organizers also have developed "18-30 VIP," a handbook of questions every candidate should answer, with queries covering everything from the economy to education to Iraq.

"Right now, a bunch of people you don't know are controlling your life," Hurricane told Nikiski students last Wednesday.

"Wouldn't it be better if you were controlling your life?"

It's not hard, he said. To change their world, young people simply have to take the initiative to fill out a voter registration form and show up at the polls on Election Day. It can mean more than they think.

The Hurricane talked to students about potential laws banning cell phones in high schools and raising the legal driving age to 18 or 21 topics that affect them directly.

"You think your vote doesn't count, but you know what? Ninety-nine cents doesn't make a dollar," he said.

He also talked about more abstract issues, such as the future of Social Security.

"How many of you have jobs? You're paying Social Security tax. You want to get that back someday?" he asked.

"I know it's hard to think about retiring now. You're in high school. But as bad as it sucks to be young and broke, it sucks more to be old and broke.

"Someday, you're going to be saying, 'Man, I wish when I was young I had listened to that green-haired guy."

While many of the students were more interested in the Hurricane's wrestling history yes, he performed his signature "spin" on stage, and yes, he's beaten "The Rock" in a televised match a handful managed to stay engaged with the point of the program.

One of the voting-related questions posed to the Hurricane asked who he would vote for in the 2004 presidential election. That, however, was the one question the Hurricane couldn't answer.

"I don't want to sway your votes," he said. "You make the decision for yourself."

Whatever that decision is, Hurricane encouraged students not to keep their voices silent.

"Right now, 18- to 30-year-olds don't vote," he said. "Don't let your age hold you down. Take control of your lives."

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