On Thursday afternoon actor and former White House staff member Kal Penn talked to student journalists from across the country as part of a college press junket to talk about his new Freeform series, “Kal Penn Approves this Message” and the upcoming election.

Through the non-partisan show, Penn aims to give a platform to young adult voters to meaningfully engage with the election. 

Penn said young voters can come together in support of an issue, across party lines on campus and local levels, to influence not just the presidential race, but to advance other causes as well.

“You have young progressives, of course, but you also have young Evangelical Christians who are involved in the climate change movement,” Penn said. “And for them, they come at it from a place of faith, related to science.”

Penn highlighted how campus spaces can be used to engage in election conversation. He added that fraternity and sorority groups, faith groups and other student groups with members who don’t agree on everything can have conversations about finding a balance.

“I just remember how many people I went to high school with, who I’m still Facebook friends with and I’m like how did we come from the same place?” Penn said. “How did we have the similar public school upbringing and just don’t see eye to eye.When you’re on your third beer it’s easier to talk about things than hiding behind your screen.”

According to Penn, voting is a powerful tool for young adults to create change in their communities. 

“You’re not gonna get 100% of what you want, so how do you end up with something that is still satisfactory?” Penn said. “It only comes from that kind of conversation.”

He said the pandemic, racial justice, taxes and other issues have put a lot at stake and that the only way to create a difference is through the election.

“The amazing energy we see across the board for young people right now should not be a replacement for voting,” Penn said. “If this energy is translated to the ballot box, what an incredible opportunity is to change the way policy works, the people who represent us and then continue that pressure on people in office.”

Penn said people often discount the power young people have in electoral politics.

“People in positions of power make it seem like it’s tough for you to vote or make it seem like your vote won’t matter,” Penn said. “They do this because they’re scared of us. If we actually showed up to vote in huge numbers, the current Democrats and Republicans in office, you probably won’t see a lot of them holding on to their jobs.”

Daily Staff Reporter Varsha Vedapudi can be reached at varshakv@umich.edu

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