When asked to comment on the Vietnam War, Elvis Presley said, "I'm just an entertainer, and I'd just as soon keep my personal opinions to myself."
These days, many entertainers directly state their support for or against a presidential candidate, often at the risk of political and career turmoil. Remember the all-too-familiar Dixie Chicks saga?
Others, such as Reba McEntire, are reluctant to use their celebrity to encourage fans to support specific candidates. Referring to her husband-manager, Narvel Blackstock, McEntire says, "I feel that people who are my fans, if I said I'd vote for Narvel for president, they would, too, because they love me, and they have been such loyal followers. They really respect my opinion, and I don't want to sway anybody one way or the other."
Regardless of political views and party affiliations, though, country artists agree on one thing: It's important to vote in Tuesday's (Nov. 2) presidential election. In recent months, they've made that perfectly clear during a series of interviews with CMT News and CMT Radio.
"Voting is critical," Ronnie Dunn insists. "It's the most powerful tool that we have as a democracy. That's it. I mean, that vote does everything. It wins wars. It loses wars. It's more powerful than any weapon out there, so no matter what your presidential candidate preference is, it's extremely important to vote. Don't take that for granted. No American should."
"I look at it as more of a privilege than a responsibility," says Travis Tritt, whose new album features "What Say You," a song he recorded with John Mellencamp. "It is a song that basically says don't be afraid to have your own opinions, but don't be afraid to listen to what other people have to say, too. I don't care what your political affiliations are, the main thing that we want people to do is use your opportunity to have your voice heard. Vote. Use your vote. We're just encouraging people to go out and use your voice. It's a right that we have. It's a privilege that we have in this country that we should be very, very thankful for."
While it's important to vote, it's also important to be an educated voter.
"The most important thing is that people read and pay attention and learn about the candidates," Emmylou Harris notes.
"I think everybody should be very involved in politics and should pay attention to everything that's out there to learn," Gretchen Wilson says. "The way I always look at it is [for] the right guy. I look for somebody that I can trust and somebody that I can believe in."
The artists also agree that next week's presidential election is particularly important because of the difficult issues the nation will be facing during the next four years.
"I can definitely say that this election, the feel of it, there is a lot of division right now in our country," Deryl Dodd observes. "I'm not going to say either way who's right or wrong, but I just know someone needs to step up and do what they say they're going to do."
"We're at a really critical time right now," says Terri Clark, a native of Canada who now lives near Nashville. "This isn't really a time for anybody to be sort of in-between about anything. I respect anybody for their opinions and where they decide to go with that."
Those issues cover a wide range, but the priorities include unemployment and the war on terrorism.
"This is a time for everyone to come together and agree on some things," Willie Nelson offers. "I think everyone can agree on the importance of putting people back to work."
When questioned about her political views, new mom Sara Evans replies, "As Americans, it's such a privilege we have to be able to vote. We live in a free nation, and that's what we are promoting around the world. This war on terror is basically about giving freedom to other countries ... and setting up appropriate governments that work for them. In America, we are so blessed that we have the freedom of religion and the freedom to vote. So, if you don't utilize that right, then it's really a waste. So, no matter who you're for, just get out there and vote. It's really, really important."
View video clips of country artists expressing their views on voting.