Kal Penn

Kal Penn called his new job at the White House "the greatest reward."

Following an abrupt departure from House this spring, the actor finally reported for his first day of work as associate director in the White House Office of Public Engagement on Monday.

He'll work as a liaison within the arts and Asian American and Pacific Islander communities.

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"The Office of Public Engagement essentially takes the administration out of Washington and into communities around the country ... stimulating this dialogue that Americans have come to expect from their government," said Penn, who will use his birth name, Kalpen Modi, while at the White House.

Penn, who is of Gujarati Indian descent, said that while volunteering for President Barack Obama during his campaign, he observed that the South Asian community "wasn't just relegated to ethnic politics, but was a pretty pivotal part of both campaigns." That helped fuel his decision to take a break from acting and serve his government.

'We are pleased to have Kalpen join the great team in the Office of Public Engagement," a White House spokesperson said in a statement. "Given his background and qualifications, the arts and AAPI communities will have a strong partner in the White House."

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Asked to divulge the paycheck he'll be collecting from Uncle Sam, Penn deferred, saying," I appreciate the opportunity to work for the Obama administration. That, to me, is the greatest reward. It's true."

Penn has no specific timeline for when his White House service will end and his acting career resumes — even with A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas on the drawing board for a November 2010 release.

"At the moment, I have decided to take a sabbatical from acting," he said, "so I hope the folks who make the Harold & Kumar films will respect that decision."