By Steve Zoski, Daily Staff Reporter
Published March 5, 2012
Best known for playing Kumar Patel in “Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle” and Dr. Lawrence Kutner in “House,” actor Kal Penn now plays a more serious role — campaigning for President Barack Obama’s re-election.
As part of the campaign, Penn will visit the University on Thursday night in collaboration with Obama for America's Young Americans’ Greater Together Summit Tour — a series of events held on college campuses throughout the country during February and March designed to promote Obama's re-election campaign and encourage students to register to vote. The event is sponsored by the University’s chapter of College Democrats and is taking place in the Michigan Union Ballroom.
During his visit at the University, Penn will lead students in a panel discussion regarding various national issues that have been central to the 2012 presidential election. In addition to Penn, Stephanie Cutter, Obama’s deputy campaign manager, and Broderick Johnson, senior campaign adviser, will also be in attendance.
In an e-mail interview with The Michigan Daily, Penn wrote that Obama offers college students much more than his Republican opponents. Specifically, he credited the repeal of the military’s “don’t ask don’t tell” policy, the end of the war in Iraq, the passage of Obama’s healthcare reform law and more as reasons why the president deserves another four years in office.
“The contrast here couldn’t be more clear,” Penn wrote. “All of the president’s opponents have made pledges to roll back his key accomplishments for young people. All of the president’s opponents have made it clear that if elected, they would undo many of those accomplishments. We can’t let that happen.”
Penn noted that the youth vote was pivotal to the president’s 2008 campaign, and urged students to be politically active in the coming months, as young people will be critical to Obama’s re-election efforts.
“Young people came out in huge support of the president back in 2008, and that made all the difference,” Penn wrote. “We want to make sure they get involved again.”
Penn wrote that Thursday’s event will be a good opportunity for students to have an open discussion of the presidential campaign.
“You’ll hear some great conversations and also have a chance to meet a bunch of the President’s young campaign organizers and volunteers,” Penn said. “The vibe tends to be really respectful and conversational, and there are plenty of opportunities to sign up to get more information on volunteering.”
LSA freshman Pavitra Abraham, a campus organizer for the Obama campaign in Ann Arbor, is scheduled to speak at the event and said she thinks the event will help unite Obama supporters and foster healthy discussion on political issues that impact college students.
“I think all of us involved are really excited and optimistic about everything he’s done and everything he’s capable of doing,” Abraham said.
Abraham said she is excited that Penn is coming to campus as a prominent national figure taking political action.
“It really goes to show, no matter what your occupation is, that what happens in the political arena affects everyone,” Abraham said. “I think it's great to see a prominent political figure like himself taking part in really getting the youth active and excited in a cause he believes in.”
Matt McGrath, Obama’s Michigan press secretary, said students who want to get involved with the Obama campaign will learn about many opportunities for participation on Thursday.
“There are untold numbers of ways to help,” McGrath said.
The campaign will also stop at the University of Wisconsin-Madison tomorrow before the visiting the University.
Doors to the event open at 6 p.m., and the discussion begins at 7 p.m. The event is open to the public, but space is limited.