Heard on Campus: George Takei

November 21, 2016

“We were incarcerated. We were American citizens – my mother was born in Sacramento, my father was a San Franciscan, my siblings and I were born in Los Angeles. 120,000 Japanese Americans on the West Coast were summarily rounded up, with no due process, no charges, no trial – and [these processes are] fundamental to our justice system – and we were imprisoned in barbed-wire prison camps for the duration of the war.

"As a teenager I read about the glorious ideals of democracy…I couldn’t quite reconcile it with my childhood experience. I learned about our democracy from my father, who bore the pain and anguish of the Internment the most.

"He said, ‘Our democracy is a people’s democracy. The people have the capacity to do extraordinary things, noble things… But the people are also fallible human beings; they make horrible mistakes, as we experienced. We combine the two: nobility and fallibility. And so with that kind of people’s democracy, what it calls for, is people who cherish the ideals of our democracy, and actively engage in the process, to try to make our democracy be true, and to try to make it a better democracy.’

"And so the lesson I learned was from my father, and that’s why I’ve been an activist throughout my life.”

– Activist and actor George Takei on Nov. 17 spoke to an audience of over 2,000 in Eisenhower Auditorium about his life growing up with his family in a U.S. internment camp for Japanese Americans after the attack by Japan on the Pearl Harbor naval base in 1941.

Takei, well known for his role as Hikaru Sulu in the original "Star Trek" series, also touched on his acting career and, because of the times, his silence as a gay man who feared public exposure because of what it would mean for his career. He came out in 2005 when he was 68 years old. His experiences led him to become a life-long activist for human rights and political and social justice.

Takei was invited to Penn State's University Park campus as part of the Student Programming Association's Fall 2016 Distinguished Speakers series.

Last Updated November 21, 2016