Actor Kal Penn got involved in Barack Obama's first presidential campaign back in 2007 because some of his college-age friends couldn't afford to attend university, he said Wednesday.
"I had a friend who had to decide if he could get glasses to see the board or get textbooks," Penn said in an interview on the University of Nevada, Las Vegas campus.
Penn was in town to speak at a "Greater Together Student Summit," one of about 12 rallies at universities the Obama campaign is planning through March in 10 battleground states.
Young and first-time voters fueled Obama's 2008 victory in Nevada and in many states across the country. Now, Penn is among campaign leaders who are trying to replicate the same Election Year campus magic in 2012.
Penn, best known for his starring role in "Harold and Kumar go to White Castle," is one of Obama's new national campaign co-chairs.
Four years ago, Penn said he traveled to 26 states with a message that Obama, a Democrat, would bring change after eight years of Republican President George W. Bush, two costly wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and a rapidly sinking economy.
This year, Penn said, the message to young voters is to keep Obama in the White House to prevent the GOP from undoing his work. Penn listed as accomplishments health care reform, support for Pell education grants, getting rid of 'don't ask, don't tell" so homosexuals can serve openly in the military, ending the war in Iraq and slowly reviving the economy.
"They are very well aware that all of the reforms can be rolled back," Penn said of youth he talks with.
Four years ago, the Democrats registered 100,000 new voters in Nevada, giving the party the edge over Republicans. Democrats still have about 47,000 more registered voters than the GOP, but it's too soon to know which party will win the voter registration drive in 2012.
A similar competition is playing out across the country with the Obama campaign again focusing on recruiting young voters.
The UNLV campus rally is the third one this month, after Ohio and North Carolina. The youth campaign kicked off last year in Pennsylvania, according to the Obama team. Youth summits also are planned at college campuses in Florida, New Hampshire, Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, Colorado and Virginia, the Obama campaign said.
Penn said he's committed to campaign for Obama through Election Day in November.
Penn is also the former associate director of the White House Office of Public Engagement. "The president was elected because young people got involved," Penn said. "I'm here to encourage them to join us again."