Because celebrities are the sages of our time, and because they’re generally better looking than both politicians and delegates in those red, white, and blue boater hats, they’re highly sought out to speak at the Democratic and Republican National Conventions. Here are some famous people—of varying levels of fame and political involvement—who boosted TV ratings and made America great by stepping up to the podium at a DNC or RNC.
1. Kal Penn.
Sure, Penn is a celebrity because he was in those Harold and Kumar movies, and also he was on House when that show was huge. But he left House in 2009 to work for Barack Obama during the president’s first term. He served as associate director of the Office of Public Liaison from 2009 to 2011, and capped it off by speaking at the 2012 Democratic National Convention.
2. Scarlett Johansson.
Regardless of your political views, it’s a matter of fact that Obama is one of the youngest and coolest presidents in the nation’s history—younger and cooler than William Howard Taft and Franklin Pierce combined. That means Obama could also pull in the celebrity speakers who were cool and young like him. Like Scarlett Johansson, who spoke at the 2012 Democratic National Convention about the importance of voting.
3. Clint Eastwood.
The Democrats had Black Widow, but the Republicans had two-time Oscar winning director and Dirty Harry/Josey Wales/Guy from Space Cowboys Clint Eastwood. In a bit of political theater (and avant garde theater), Eastwood famously delivered his speech at the 2012 Republican National Convention to President Obama… represented on stage by an empty chair.
4. Jason Sehorn and Angie Harmon.
There just aren’t a lot of avowed conservatives in Hollywood. There’s Clint Eastwood, Patricia Heaton from Everybody Loves Raymond, and, uh, Angie Harmon. Married conservatives Sehorn and Harmon were quite the get for the 2004 Republican National Convention—he was a pro football player, she was on Law & Order, and he proposed to her during an episode of The Tonight Show. Anyway, they spoke at the 2004 RNC (together) about two servicemen who had earned the Medal of Honor.
Some say that playing football takes courage. But it is just a game. Nothing compares to the valor of these men. These are America's heroes, they know the price of liberty, and they support President George W. Bush.
5. Janine Turner.
In 2008, the Republican National Convention was where most Americans heard of Alaska governor Sarah Palin for the first time—when she was introduced as the party’s Vice Presidential candidate. Evidently, the GOP just can’t get enough Alaskan women, even if they’re not really from Alaska. This would explain why Janine Turner, who starred as bush pilot Maggie on the quirky Alaska-set dramedy Northern Exposure back in the ‘90s, spoke at the 2012 Republican National Convention.
6. John Wayne.
The Duke starred in so many war movies and cowboy movies that in the public consciousness, he might as well have been a war hero and a cowboy. He’s the prototypical big tough good guy, although in real life he was outspoken about his hatred for commies and “hippie dropouts.” So much so that he spoke at the 1968 Republican National Convention on behalf of his good friend, presidential candidate Richard Nixon. His speech was surprisingly apolitical, and more of a patriotic summary about why he thought America was pretty great.
“I have a feeling that a nation is more than just government, laws and rules. It’s an attitude. It’s the people’s outlook. Dean Martin once asked me what I wanted for my baby daughter, and I realize now that my answer was kind of an attitude toward my country. Well, he asked me this on election day and the bars were closed anyway, so he had a lot of time to listen and I told him. . . . I told him that I wanted for my daughter Marisa what most parents want for their children. I wanted to stick around long enough to see that she got a good start and I would like her to know some of the values that we knew as kids, some of the values that an articulate few now are saying are old-fashioned. But most of all I want her to be grateful, as I am grateful for every day of my life that I spend in the United States of America. . . . I don’t care whether she ever memorizes the Gettysburg Address or not, but I want her to understand it, and since very few little girls are asked to defend their country, she will probably never have to raise her hand to that oath, but I want her to respect all who do. I guess that is what I want for my girl. That is what I want for my country, and that’s what I want for the men that you people are going to pick from here to go shape our destinies.”
7. Ben McKenzie.
How popular was The OC in 2004? So much so that McKenzie, who played bad boy Ryan on the show (and who currently stars on Gotham) got a speaking slot at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. You just know John Kerry was a total Ryan-Marissa shipper. McKenzie spoke for about three minutes, starting off with some self-deprecating humor that turns into some major shade against then-president Bush, before telling young people that they should vote.
"I'm From Texas. I know very little about foreign police, balancing the budgets, or protecting the environment. of course, you'd be surprised how far you can rise in this country with those qualifications. And, while I may not be an expert on those issues, I definitely do know this: In 2000, I didn't do anything. I didn't volunteer. I didn't vote. I didn't even register to vote. I was too busy and I thought it didn't matter. And I wasn't the only one. I learned 18 million Americans from 18-24 also didn't vote."
8. Scott Baio.
Earlier this week, the former star of Charles in Charge, Happy Days, and a musical about gangster Bugsy Malone with a cast made up entirely of children that ends in a pie fight, was among the first and most high profile speakers at the 2016 Republican National Convention. He spoke out against “getting free stuff,” called out Hillary Clinton for acting “entitled,” and said Donald Trump “gets things done.” Baio also tweaked Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan into “Make America America again,” which presumably means the ‘70s, when he was famous for romanticizing the ‘50s. Or maybe he meant the actual ‘50s.