Actor/producer Kal Penn, a volunteer for the Obama campaign and a former White House associate director of public engagement, courted the youth vote at the Democratic National Convention on Sept. 4.
Penn, perhaps best known for starring in “Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle,” spoke, on Prime Time TV, a four-letter word: “Vote” and made pointed but funny remarks about gay marriage, college loans, health care and military service.
The following is a transcript of Penn’s remarks, as prepared for delivery on Sept. 4 at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte:
I am honored to accept your nomination for president of the United States!
Wait, this isn't my speech. Prompter guy, can we pull up my speech?
While we're waiting: a special message for those of you at home who have recently turned 18. Good news. I can now legally register you to vote.
I've worked on a lot of fun movies, but my favorite job was having a boss who gave the order to take out bin Laden—and who's cool with all of us getting gay-married. Thank you, invisible man in the chair, for that, and for giving my friends access to affordable health insurance and doubling funding for the Pell grant.
I started volunteering for Barack Obama in 2007. But nothing compares to what I saw behind the scenes at the White House, when I had the honor to serve for two years as President Obama's liaison to young Americans. I saw how hard he fights for us.
One of the most special days was a Saturday in 2010. The Senate repealed "don't ask, don't tell," so anyone can serve the country they love, regardless of whom they love. But that same day, the Dream Act was blocked. That bill would give immigrant children—who've never pledged allegiance to any flag but ours—the chance to earn their citizenship. Simple. Important.
I was in a small office on the second floor of the West Wing with eight other staffers. We'd worked our hearts out and cared deeply about what this would mean for other young people. There wasn't a dry eye in the room—tears of joy for the history that was made, but also tears of sadness because some American dreams would still be deferred.
Five minutes later, President Obama walked in, sleeves rolled up. He said to us, "This is not over. We're gonna keep fighting. I'm gonna keep fighting. I need young people to keep fighting." That's why we're here!
A few months later, President Obama fought to keep taxes from going up on middle-class families. Our Republican friends said, "Sure you can do that." But one of the things they were willing to trade is a little item called the college tax credit, which today is saving students up to $10,000 over four years of school.
Now, President Obama paid off his own student loans not too long ago. He remembers what it is like. He said making it easier to go to college and get technical training is exactly how we grow our economy, create jobs and out-compete the world. So he stood firm. And that tuition tax credit is still here. But, if we don't register, if we don't vote, it won't be.
I volunteered in Iowa in 2007 because, like you, I had friends serving in Iraq, friends who were looking for jobs, others who couldn't go to the doctor because they couldn't afford it. I felt that had to change. So I knocked on doors. I registered voters.
And I'm volunteering again now because my friend Matt got a job at a Detroit car company that still exists, and Lauren can get the prescription she needs. I'm volunteering because Josiah is back from Iraq, Chris is finishing college on the GI Bill, and three weeks ago, my buddy Kevin's boyfriend was able to watch him graduate from Marine Corps training. That's change! And we can't turn back now.
So before I close—and as I wonder which Twitter hash tags you'll start using when I'm done talking (hash tag sexy face)—I ask all you young people to join me. You don't even have to put pants on. Go to commit.barackobama.com and register right there. And the oldies out there, you can do it, too.
Let's keep fighting for a president who's never stopped fighting for us! Go online. Find your local campaign office. Call your friends. Call some strangers. Volunteer. That's how we're going to win this thing.
I really enjoyed listening to Rahm's speech. But he's a mayor now, so he can't use four-letter words.
But I'm no mayor. So I've got one for you: