Those expecting “Harold and Kumar” slapstick when John Cho and Kal Penn spoke at Colorado State were disappointed. Instead, the actors, decked-out in Obama t-shirts, shared their passion for the Obama campaign and the importance of voter registration.“You’re young, and you’re going to swing the nation,” Cho said to a group of Obama campaign volunteers before the event. “This is a really historical chance to do something to affect the country in a positive way.”
Around 2:30 p.m., approximately 100 students gathered beneath the trees west of the lagoon to hear the actors speak.
“It’s really inspiring that young people came out. Affection for the actors is probably why they’re here, but it’s cool they came out and registered to vote,” said Melissa Pickett, a CSU alumna who attended the event.
Penn and Cho focused on what they called president Obama’s commitment to quality education and fulfilling his promise to young people.
“The measure of a nation is how many people can access higher education,” said Cho, a first-generation student whose family immigrated from Korea. “One guy worked really hard on that, and he’s in the White House.”
Penn cited Obama’s increase of Pell Grants and implementation of the American Opportunity Tax Credit, which can be claimed for certain college expenses, as Obama’s fight for youth issues.
Volunteers for the Obama For America Colorado group, who brought Cho and Penn to campus, handed out flyers and registered students to vote at the event. Oct. 9 is the last day to register to vote in the general election.
The College Republicans at CSU will work toward providing voter registration as well, according to President Brad Dick. Currently two of their members are able to register people to vote, and Dick hopes to increase that number and register students in conjunction with future events.
Celebrity endorsements of candidates are ubiquitous during election season, but according to Sandra Davis, an associate professor of political science, they do not always affect voter opinions.
“People and citizens respond well to different sources of information,” said Sandra Davis, an associate professor of political science. “Young people today watch comedy and political comedy. It’s a good way to reach out and encourage students. People, student or otherwise, are inclined to pay attention to a celebrity they have some regard for.”
In his tours through 26 states, Penn noticed that the majority of students were concerned about the campaign and not his celebrity. According to him, for every 50 questions asked, only one is about his work in movies or television.
Cho said it was up to the attendees to make the country what they want it to be.
“We’re talking heads out there,” Cho said. “It doesn’t matter. [People will] talk to friends, community members, and that’s the real weight.”
Politics beat reporter Kate Winkle can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.