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Russell Simmons: Time to get inspired

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  • Russell Simmons: Obama can improve education and opportunity
  • He says the hip-hop world jumped into the campaign before he did
  • Promoting world peace is expensive but cheaper than war, Simmons says
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NEW YORK (CNN) -- Hip-hop entrepreneur Russell Simmons says he didn't get emotional when he heard that Sen. Barack Obama had been elected president, but he did get inspired.

Russell Simmons says he expects Barack Obama to improve policies abroad and at home.

"The emotional thing was watching Beyonce and Puffy and Jay-Z shake people's hands and thank them for their votes," Simmons says. "I don't get excited about winning. I get excited about the work. I was inspired by the potential" of an Obama administration.

Simmons, the co-founder of Def Jam Recordings, endorsed Obama in March and campaigned for him. The 51-year-old executive spoke with CNN on Wednesday, the day after Obama's election.

CNN: What would you like to see Barack Obama do as president?

Simmons: It's very, very important to me that we use education and opportunity to promote world peace. It's expensive, but it's much cheaper than war. I believe President Obama can live up to those ideals. Of course, we want to lift the poor. We want to give more educational opportunities here at home. ... We need a more compassionate, more giving, less selfish, less fearful government.

CNN: What did you feel when you heard he had been elected?

Simmons: There was a recognition that America has come a long way. Young people saw it. I was proud of the hip-hop community; he's their candidate. The people ... [my age] didn't see it. ... I was kind of in between. I came in, some would say, late -- early on in the primaries but somewhat late in the hip-hop community.

CNN: Before the presidential campaign, you were a supporter of Hillary Clinton?

Simmons: I worked with her on poverty. I worked with her on prison reforms. I worked with her on education. She stood up with me on a lot of issues. I have a relationship with the Clintons. ... The minute I started to see the opportunity [for Obama to win], I jumped on. I was a surrogate for him during the primaries. I campaigned for him in Missouri. I went to Colorado, Florida, Philadelphia and Ohio.

CNN: Was it painful to have to choose between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama?

Simmons: It was very painful, because I have a great relationship with Sen. Clinton. I felt very strongly about her being the vice presidential nominee. I thought it would be an easier route [to victory].

CNN: How would you describe Barack Obama, the man?

Simmons: He's gracious, and he's humble. ... I think in his heart, he believes we should take care of the people who are struggling in this country. As you get, you give. The idea that I get so much richer while other people are getting poorer, I felt bad about it.

I'm very excited about having a president who can promote good will around the world rather than fear and anger.

CNN: Who would you like to see in an Obama administration?

Simmons: Bill Clinton could run a poverty initiative. ... I think Colin Powell, it would be amazing if he could help. But I can't speculate on who should be in the administration.

CNN: When was the last time you spoke to Obama?

Simmons: It's been a while. I have his mobile number. I was joking this morning, I wonder if he'd still pick up.

All About Hillary ClintonBarack ObamaHip-Hop Culture

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