Campus-Canvassing Actors Rally for Obama
A sea of Oberlin students came together on Wednesday to support the message of Senator Barack Obama’s presidential campaign: change, the ideal that inspired actor Kal Penn to begin campaigning across the United States on Obama’s behalf four years ago. Joined by fellow celebrity Eric Balfour, Penn has spread his enthusiasm to crowds around the country.
Over 100 Oberlin students gathered in one of King’s lecture halls to hear Penn and Balfour speak, applauding enthusiastically as they entered the room.
Balfour spoke about his personal reasons for joining the Obama campaign, saying that he was once apathetic: “Throughout my young adult life I moved through the world and through our country not always being quite sure if I was proud of my representation or proud of what my country stood for.”
He continued, “When I found Barack Obama I found a voice and a man who said ‘things have to change,’ ‘we have to unite’ and ‘things have to be done differently.’ This is the guy that I want to represent me. This is the guy that I want to stand to every leader in the world and say, ‘I represent what America is supposed to be.’”
First-year double-degree student Paulena Papagiannis said, “I think this is a sentiment that many Americans share. Especially in this presidential election, many are feeling helpless and find inspiration in Obama’s message.”
After Balfour finished, Penn came to the microphone and, completely unlike his lethargic stoner character in the cult classic Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle, spoke about a friend of his from Texas who was working a minimum wage job at a trucking company in the hope that one day he could afford to go to college. Penn told the audience that Halliburton offered his friend a job — driving a truck in Iraq — that would pay him a sufficient amount of money to achieve his goal.
“I remember my first reaction was thinking that it was a really sad, sad day when the world’s richest country can only offer two opportunities for a friend who wanted to go to college,” he said. “Minimum wage or ninety thousand dollars for a year in a war zone.”
This revelation left the audience in silence, though most of the speech was marked by the loud bursts of applause and laughter. Penn got the loudest laugh of the afternoon when he revealed that he had been waitlisted by Oberlin.
College sophomore Samuel Jewler said the event had an impact on his feelings about the election: “I was surprised how eloquent Kal Penn was, and now I am more inspired to vote for Obama. I had been a Richardson supporter, but now I feel a lot better about supporting Obama.”