OPINION: Commencement speaker Kal Penn a breath of fresh air


For the last four years, I have enjoyed all that Greencastle has to offer-most notably, DePauw University and the events that the school puts on for its students and the community at large.
I've been to senior readings for English majors, past commencement addresses, Ubben Lectures, School of Music concerts and free low-budget action movies at Ashley Square Cinema. I have enjoyed each and every event I have attended.
Being able to leave DePauw saying that I have seen and heard some of the brightest minds in academics, business and politics will undoubtedly be one of the memories I will cherish for the rest of my life and something that DePauw, as an institution, has clearly worked very hard to put on for its students.
 With all that being said, and this is certainly not an indictment on past speakers or commencement addressers, this year's choice of Kal Penn was as shocking as it was refreshing for me as a senior at DePauw.
While I have loved the lectures and commencements I have attended, they all seem to have one thing in common: a lack of creativity or originality when compared to their peers from earlier years.
Plenty of insight can be gained by my generation from the words and life-experiences of our elders, but the choice of Penn was not only a breath of fresh-air but also a display that DePauw is actively trying to re-brand itself.
Kal Penn, who first made a name for himself as a co-star in the stoner comedy franchise Harold and Kumar, has proven to have a lot more substance than his Kumar counterpart would lead you to believe. Penn has served as the associate director of in the White House Office of Public Engagement since 2009, preceded by a stint on Barack Obama's National Arts Committee.
While none of these positions might seem as prestigious as co-CEO of Teach for America, like last year's commencement speaker, Elisa Villanueva Beard. Penn is both a big name with an accomplished background to backup his fame as a television and film star.
 At the end of the day, commencement is about congratulating the newly graduated class. It is about marking the time for them to head out into the "real-world"-a "real world" that we have all been dreading to a certain degree since we were first led around campus as a class in August 2010.
While I am not speaking for my entire class, I am glad that we have not only a young, accomplished, well-known individual leading us through our commencement ceremony, but I am excited that it's someone that demonstrates that DePauw realizes that some of us are more inclined to have a commencement with a slightly lighter tone.

- Small is a senior history and political science double major from Zionsville, Ind.