'Rock the Vote' aims to inspire youth Campaign expands goals, encourages activism


WASHINGTON -- Grainy black-and-white footage fills the television screen with energetic young men slashing and weaving on skateboards across the concrete and curbs in Santa Cruz, Calif. A narrator breaks into the punk-rock soundtrack: "Call them what you want, but these guys asked the City Council for a skateboard park -- and got it."

With that, the skaters disappear from the streets and instead soar above a half-pipe ramp. A message appears: "Rock the Nation."

This prototype public service announcement, the likes of which could appear on MTV and other stations as soon as July 2, typifies a new two-year campaign planned by Santa Monica, Calif.-based Rock the Vote, a group founded in 1990 by members of the recording industry to encourage voter registration across the country.

Rock the Vote's new "Rock the Nation" campaign highlights examples of successful youth activism -- a new direction for the organization that marked recent changes in its leadership.

Donna Frisby, former development director, assumed the role of executive director this month. A new president, Seth Matlins, former senior vice president of the international sports and entertainment marketing company ProServ, starts work next week, Frisby said.

"Voting should not be the only thing that we do," Frisby said. "People think after they vote that it's over, but that's not democracy at all. You also have to stay engaged in what's happening in your community."

He added: "My vision for the organization is not to see it as a campaign that comes around every four years. A lot of what we hear is that young people don't know what services are available to them. We don't just want to tell people, 'You can do it.' We want to show them how. We're hoping to empower young people."

Plans for "Rock the Nation" include television commercials, print ads and radio spots. A July 2 party at Independence Park in lTC Philadelphia will kick off the campaign, Frisby said.

In September, Rock the Vote and a New York City-based organization called Do Something, founded in 1993 to cultivate the leadership potential of young adults, will work in tandem, visiting U.S. cities for a week at a time to hold town forums. The sessions are to be moderated by celebrities and will feature live music and highlight local nonprofit groups.

And a Rock the Vote "Rock the Ages" campaign, in conjunction with the American Association of Retired Persons, will enable senior citizens to join young adults in registering to vote via the Internet before elections this fall.

Pub Date: 5/26/98

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