politics | April 28, 2013

Kal Penn: Working For Obama Helped Me Appreciate "Complexity" Of Politics

"I actually left the White House feeling more inspired than when I got there," politics speaker Kal Penn says of his time as the Associate Director at the White House Office of Public Engagement. "I appreciated [the] complexity [of the political process] in a way I hadn't had I not had the opportunity to work in government." As he told The Huffington Post Live in this new interview segment (embedded above), the actor-turned-civil-servant-turned-actor-again says it is a much different process behind the scenes than what you "see on CNN." You assume that the people in congress are rational actors he says. "That's PoliSci 101." However, Penn says that is rarely the case.

When the Huffington Post asked Penn whether he was disappointed in any of the measures that Obama has taken in his second term, he says that he agrees with the President's current direction. While he promised to shut down Guantanamo Bay—and has yet to do so—Penn says there is more to consider when criticizing the President for not delivering on that promise. There are complex competing forces and irrational actors working against each other in a way he says he was never fully aware of until he was placed in the thick of the government process. He also adds that acknowledging all of the accomplishments the Obama administration has achieved so far—despite these complexities—is hugely important.

This faith is what keeps Penn involved in political activism despite no longer having an official role at the White House. While he is working primarily in television and film these days (most recently, hosting The Big Brain Theory on Discovery), he is still a passionate advocate for youth involvement in democracy. He gives keynotes and hosts events geared toward educating and empowering youth about the political issues that matter to them. A knowledgeable—and wildly entertaining—voice on pop culture and current events, Penn engages with his audiences in a very unique way. Combining sharp wit and jokes with informed critique, Penn's speeches make audiences laugh—but also inspire them to get involved and make a difference.

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