Just hours before President Barack Obama and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney went head-to-head in their second presidential debate, actor and activist Harry Belafonte shared his hopes for the election outcome.

The legendary singer, actor and social activist, who was being presented with the Medal for Justice by John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City, said he feels the result of the 2012 election could change the course of the country's future.

"I think that where we are now is in crisis and [at] a crossroads," Belafonte told The Huffington Post. "If unbridled capitalism prevails with the current electoral process, and Mitt Romney makes it, then I think we're in for a terrible, terrible future. If he doesn't make it, then I think we have a chance to look at the democratic institutions and be more sensitive to poverty, women's issues, children, etc."

The "Day-O" singer is well known for his lifetime commitment to activism, and he has spoken openly about his disappointment with the lack of social responsibility displayed by high-profile celebrities like Jay-Z and Beyonce.

"There is no democracy without social engagement and social activism," he said. "It's very critical to the health and dynamic of a society that wants to remain democratic and build upon democratic principles. If you cut out that platform, they will have seriously injured the democratic process."

Actor James Earl Jones, who presented the award, commended Belafonte for using his celebrity to bring awareness to social injustices.

"As a wonderful singer and actor, he has used his fame and his talent to always reach for a higher standard of justice in this country, even at the risk of annoying people in power," Jones told The Huffington Post. "I'm not an activist, but I think every actor who has that kind of clout is obliged to use it in whatever cause he sees fit. Just because you're an actor doesn't mean you have to be quiet."

Both Belafonte and Jones said they were highly anticipating the second debate, and like many other black Americans, Belafonte said he hoped Obama would be more aggressive the second time out.

"I hope that Barack Obama has found his spine and his courage," Belafonte said. "And he'll say what's necessary."

Jones was a little less critical of Obama, saying he was confident he'd win the presidency again.

"I admire the Obamas," Jones said. "I think he will be our continuing president, I think he should be our continuing president."

Although the president definitely came out swinging Tuesday night, Jones and Belafonte agreed that he has a lot of work to do if he should win four more years. While Jones felt bipartisan cooperation is imperative, Belafonte said he hopes the president will expand his focus beyond the middle class.

"If he gets the presidency," he said, "it'll be wonderful to know that he's paid much greater attention to poverty and to the poor."

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  • John Jay College Justice Awards

    John Jay College Justice Awards at the Gerald W. Lynch Theater

  • John Jay College Justice Awards

    Actor James Earl Jones presents the honorees with their medals on behalf of John Jay College

  • John Jay College Justice Awards

    Actors Harry Belafonte and James Earl Jones

  • John Jay College Justice Awards

    John Jay College President Jeremy Travis presents actor Harry Belafonte with the Medal of Justice

  • John Jay College Justice Awards

    Harry Belafonte's medal acceptance speech.

  • John Jay College Justice Awards

    Harry Belafonte's medal acceptance speech.

  • John Jay College Justice Awards

    Dr. Deqo Waqaf accepts the Medal of Justice on behalf of her mother, Dr. Hawa Abdi, Somali human rights activist and 2012 Nobel Peace Prize nominee.

  • John Jay Justice Awards

    Vivian Nixon, executive director of the College and Community Fellowship, gives her acceptance speech.

  • John Jay College Justice Awards

    John Jay College President Jeremy Travis; Vivian Nixon, executive director of the College and Community Fellowship; Harry Belafonte, actor, musician and civil rights activist; Dr. Deqo Waqaf, daughter of honoree Dr. Hawa Abdi, Somali human rights activist and 2012 Nobel Peace Prize nominee; actor James Earl Jones; and Cathleen Douglas Stone, widow of posthumous honoree Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas.

  • John Jay College Justice Awards

  • John Jay College Justice Awards

    Harry Belafonte and John Jay President Jeremy Travis

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