Pop star Alicia Keys has a special Valentine’s Day message for an unlikely figure — Speaker of the House Paul Ryan.
In a new video directed at the Republican leader, the “Empire State of Mind” singer urges action on criminal justice reform this year. In the faux flirtatious clip, Keys tells Ryan to show her how “cool” he is by backing bipartisan action on the issue, which President Obama name-checked as a priority for his final year in office.
Keys says that Ryan could “maybe be her valentine” if only he “spreads some love” by “reuniting those who have been unjustly torn apart be excessive incarceration.” The Grammy winner implores viewers to pen “love” letters via WeAreHereMovement.com, to put pressure on Ryan and other members of Congress to act:
Obama and Ryan had their first one-on-one meeting at the White House on Tuesday, and criminal justice reform was said to be a significant talking point on their agenda. Ryan has frequently referenced the issue as one of the few areas on which he can see room to work with the president and Democrats.
“We don’t agree on much,” Ryan said last December. “We see things very differently. I think what we will probably try to do is where we can get things done, where we can find common ground without compromising principles, get those things done. Make sure that government works. But we’re going to have one heck of a contrast in 2016.”
Meanwhile, Keys’ participation in the project should not come as a surprise. She has distinguished herself over the years an activist and a philanthropist. Her foundation, Keep a Child Alive, raises funds for medicine for HIV/AIDS patients in Africa, and she has headlined concert benefits on behalf of natural disaster victims both in the U.S. and abroad. The 35-year-old singer also campaigned for Obama in 2008 and 2012.
Last November, she made her pitch for criminal justice reform directly to members of Congress. “Nowhere in the rest of the western world are juveniles being tried as adults, or even worse, sentenced to life sentences without parole,” she told senators after an emotional meeting with families with loved ones incarcerated in Baltimore. “Is this who we are now? Is this who we want to be? These are just regular boys and girls, trying to find their way.”