Daryl And Kumar Go To White Castle

April 29, 2010 -- 1:36 pm PDT

Daryl P. Friedman's picture
Daryl P. Friedman

I must say I'm impressed with Kalpen Modi, aka Kal Penn, aka "Kumar."

Plenty of Hollywood actors of all political perspectives get involved in politics and campaigns, and Kal Penn was no exception. The media can't resist celebrities who can talk policy, so you probably saw Kal quite a bit on the cable news circuit during the presidential campaign. His stumping for Barack Obama was a far cry from his role in the stoner/buddy "Harold & Kumar" movies.

When Obama won, most of his celebrity supporters went back to their lives, content to have played a role in the election and hopeful for a state dinner invitation in the future. But not Kal. Instead, he traded in his Hollywood life for that of a policy wonk, taking a job in the Obama administration as associate director for the Office of Public Engagement under his real name, Kalpen Modi. (And lest you think he traded one glamorous life for another, you should see the office he shares with five other people.)

I bring up Kal because he was our guide during a very special meeting during GRAMMYs on the Hill this month. Not to White Castle (the locale in the 2004 film Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle), but to the White House. With the president unable to attend that night's GRAMMYs on the Hill Awards, Recording Academy President/CEO Neil Portnow, Academy Chair of the Board George J. Flanigen IV, Garth Brooks and his manager Bob Doyle, and I paid a courtesy call on President Obama in the Oval Office. While the president was naturally the focus of the short visit, I couldn't help but notice Kal, standing out of the limelight, making sure the meeting went as planned.

That night at the awards ceremony, Neil's remarks focused on the members of the creative community and their willingness to sacrifice and give back for society's greater good. Kal Penn serves as one example of that spirit, but so do many others we never hear about.

I was proud to help represent The Recording Academy at a meeting with the president. I am even more proud to represent 20,000 music creators who give back so much to our country.