Actors Kal Penn and Melissa Fitzgerald joined forces Tuesday night to encourage students to support Democratic incumbent Sen. Barbara Boxer in the Nov. 2 midterm election.
The actors were joined by Sen. Curren Price (D.-Calif.) and USC College Democrats faculty adviser Marlene Towns in a discussion that was hosted by the USC College Democrats in The Forum in the Ronald Tutor Campus Center. Discussion topics ranged from Penn’s transition into politics to the political climate in the war-torn country of Uganda.
The focus remained, however, on dispelling the idea of an “enthusiasm gap” among young Democrats and on spreading the word on the importance of voting.
“Young people came out to vote [in 2008] because of issues that are now solved,” Penn said, referring to the war in Iraq and the healthcare overhaul. “If you have friends that aren’t sure why they should go vote, remind them of these.”
Fitzgerald, who played a White House staff member on The West Wing, said she only campaigns for candidates she respects.
“I do consider it a public service,” Fitzgerald said. “I’m inspired by issues and by people who remain strong in their own convictions.”
Penn, who said he is registered as an independent, said he rejects the term “politics” and prefers to call his political involvement a public service.
“If we just get rid of the nonsense of political parties, I think we’d be a lot farther than we are today,” Penn said.
Price also stressed the youth vote, noting that most young people carry political undertones.
“Don’t lose your enthusiasm or your spirit of adventure,” Price said. “Pursue those things that you have an interest in and make that a real calling. Anything you have an interest in has a political tinge to it and I encourage you to not lose that enthusiasm.”
Penn also spoke about his career as an actor, saying it was his belief in making the country better that ultimately led him to leave acting and enter politics.
“I used to do teen comedies,” Penn said, “so no one took me seriously before. The two worlds are completely different.”
Fitzgerald, on the other hand, said her compelling television role allowed for her voice to be taken more seriously in the political world.
“I was very fortunate to be involved in a show that was a public service,” Fitzgerald said. “I got so many amazing experiences and opportunities. … People take me a little more seriously because of that show.”
Towns, who served as the event’s moderator, also took time to encourage everyone to go out and vote.
“Go online, look at voter guides,” Towns said. “Do you guys know that little ‘I voted’ sticker? A lot of times, that’s a reminder. Corny as it may seem, wear it.”
USC College Democrats encouraged students to show up two hours early and volunteer for the chance to meet Penn and take a picture with him before the program. About 30 student volunteers reached 2,166 registered voters through a Get Out The Vote phone bank.