George Takei beams down for UNT lecture series

George Takei beams down for UNT lecture series

George Takei beams down for UNT  lecture series
October 28
00:19 2014

Dalton LaFerney / Senior Staff Writer

George Takei spoke Monday night in the Coliseum as the latest speaker for the Distinguished Lecture Series.

Takei is world famous for his role as Lt. Sulu in the hit 1960’s show Star Trek. He has been a proponent for gay rights and is known for his social media presence.

The news of his visit was well received when the Department of Student Affairs announced it earlier this semester.

Distinguished Lecture Series committee member and public relations senior T.C. Greene said the decision to invite Takei to UNT was overwhelmingly popular.

“There was a lot of timeliness surrounding him and he was able to talk about a variety of issues,” he said. “He’s such a well-rounded speaker that there wasn’t even really a debate over bringing him here.”

Communication specialist Leslie Milton said about 3,000 people attended, however that is not the official total. Attendees were encouraged to use #untTakei to tweet questions for Takei.

Takei spoke of the big ambition Texas has always had and said the state gets good results.

“They boldly went where nobody had gone before,” he said. “That’s Texas.”

The crowd was receptive as he began with his famed line, “Ooh myy.” It was Takei’s first time in Denton, although it wasn’t his first time in Texas. The day he turned 5, two U.S. soldiers came to his family home in Los Angeles to take him and his family away to an internment camp.

“I remember those barbed wired fences across Texas,” he said. “It became normal for me to line up three times a day to eat lousy food.”

Takei recalled with great detail his time in the Japanese-American internment camps following the attack on Pearl Harbor. He said after the U.S. stripped them of their homes, their old lives and belongings, they were given a Locality Questionnaire, which asked several questions to determine the prisoners’ loyalties. He remembered question No. 28 in particular, which asked if prisoners were willing to denounce the emperor, as an insidious question.

“It was one of those, ‘When did you stop beating your wife?’ questions,” Takei said.

He spoke of the 442nd Regimental Combat team, a force that fought in the European theatre, comprised of Japanese-Americans whose questionnaire qualified them for the war. Takei emphasized the emotions of the relatives when the flags of those who died were returned to America — to the internment camps. 

“I think it’s very important to keep history alive. We learn from our history, both the mistakes and the good things,” Takei said. “The good things make us feel proud, but I think it’s very important to know where we faltered. Because then we can make our democracy a better democracy.”

After the war, Takei said he and his family moved back to LA, but the stigma surrounding Japanese-Americans was thick, and he said their home was a different place. His father introduced him to the world of public service while they both worked for Adlai Stevenson’s senatorial campaign. Takei said he learned the principles of democracy reading books after his time in internment camps.

“I could not reconcile what I was reading after being in those camps,” he said. “This is how democracy works.”

Takei went on to speak about his work in the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s, and other campaigns and movements. But he said his lifelong struggle with his sexuality weighed heavy on him.

“I knew I was different, but I felt very isolated deep down inside,” Takei said. “I understood the danger of being out. I was living a double life. It is a very excruciating and uncomfortable life.”

He did not mention too much about Star Trek, except that he made lifelong friends with the cast. “Except for one,” he said, referring to his dislike for co-star William Shatner.

Although there were some issues with timing, Greene said the event was a success.

“It was a good mixture of the Q&A and lecture,” he said. “It was unfortunate that he got cut a little short on his lecture to make time for the Q&A, but overall, I think it went well.”

During the question and answer portion, Takei answered some of the tweeted questions from attendees.

In 1969, Star Trek was discontinued. He said he needed something to take the place of the show. He needed to keep the momentum going.

“He is an intellectual, but I’m sad he didn’t speak more about Star Trek,” business sophomore Connor Ganong said. “But I’m glad I got his insight.”

He focused his efforts to equality movements, fearing the repercussions of being gay during that time.

“You were always on guard,” he said. “It was a horrible, painful way of living. I found comfort in the gay bars.”

He finished his lecture before answering some of the tweeted questions.

“Our democracy is a work in progress. I can stand before you today as a gay Japanese-American,” he said. “But more importantly, as a proud American.”

Featured Image: George Takei sits in a press conference after delivering a lecture in the Coliseum on Monday night. Photo by Dalton LaFerney.

About Author

Dalton LaFerney

Dalton LaFerney

Dalton is the editor of the Daily.

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