Kal Penn
Kal Penn is a former Associate Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement, having served in the Obama Administration from 2009 to 2011. He has been a well-recognized actor and producer in television and film since the late 1990s, and has been an Adjunct Lecturer in Sociology, Film, and Asian American Studies at the University of Pennsylvania.

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REASON 58: It is absolutely the role of government to invest in education and jobs.

The story goes something like this: newly-elected Barack Obama called a meeting with folks in high-tech fields, executives at Apple and other companies, to talk about obstacles to American manufacturing. Basically, what do we have to do as a country, to get these guys to produce Ipods and Ipads in the United States? Are our environmental laws prohibitive? Does labor law in America make it too expensive? The answer: not really. Among the biggest reasons that we can’t produce things like Ipods and Ipads in the United States: We don’t have enough mid-level engineers in this country, and that’s what these manufacturing plants need on-site during production. Countries like India and China—they have a plethora of them.

So when you see President Obama doubling funding for the Pell grant and creating college tax credits so that more young Americans can afford college, or investing $3.4 billion in STEM Education (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math), or using the bully pulpit to support the arts, it’s not just because it’s the right thing to do. It’s because it’ll make us more economically competitive. It’ll continue to create innovative markets, it’ll bring manufacturing and high tech jobs back to the United States, our young people will be more likely to get a job once they graduate, and our country will be stronger over the next 5, 10, 20 years than if we just sat back and said, “Nah, I don’t think we should do anything, because that’s not the role of the federal government.”

This is a president who fights for young people because he remembers what it’s like to pay back his own student loans (which he just finished paying off a couple of years ago btw), but also because he understands the linkages between new technology and job creation, between immigration and economic growth, and between making college more affordable and making us stronger in the future. It’s a very specific plan. It’s not particularly sexy or salacious, so gets very little media attention. It’s often times complex, and other out-of-touch or less tech-savvy politicians don’t get it. But whether we like it or not, the world’s moving forward. It’s time to re-elect a president who’s on board with that.

Kal Penn
 Los Angeles, California

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