celebrities | April 03, 2013

You Can't Really Say No: Celebrity Speaker Kal Penn On Working In Politics

"I feel very lucky to have done two things that are so disparate that I love so much," celebrity speaker Kal Penn says of his switch from acting to politics, and his recent transition back to acting. Well-known for his roles on House, 24, How I Met Your Mother, and the Harold & Kumar franchise, Penn took a two year sabbatical from acting to pursue his passion for political advocacy full time. And, as he explained in an interview on CBC's George Stroumboulopoulos Tonight, it's a switch that made a lot of sense given the struggles he saw around him. "As actors a lot of times you get to participate in a fundraiser for an organization or kind of really chip away a little bit at some of these issues," he says in the interview. But when you get asked to do it full time, he adds that "you sort of can't say no."

During his time as the Associate Director at the White House Office of Public Engagement, Penn focused on the issues many Americans faced every day: fighting in Iraq, worrying about gathering tuition money for college, and the controversial "don't ask, don't tell," bill. Further, he spoke candidly to a generation of young people about the importance of being politically involved—even keynoting a speech at the Democratic National Convention. While he says that he was nervous addressing that large of a crowd (rightfully so), he enjoyed the experience. And, according to the rave reviews he received at the event, the crowd enjoyed it too.

In the interview, Penn displayed his signature brand of humor-meets-intellect. Similar to his keynotes, he discussed serious issues with candor while still keep the audience entertained. Touching on topics ranging from pop culture and the media to government policies and democratic involvement, Penn is a well-rounded and entertaining presence both on the screen and on the stage.

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