EVANSVILLE, Ind. — An Evansville audience provided the soundtrack — laughter, applause and cheers — Tuesday night as social media giant George Takei narrated the long sweep of a lifetime tinged with fame and dedicated to progressive activism.
The 79-year-old Takei, best known for his role as Lt. Sulu in the original Star Trek television series, spoke to a packed house at The Victory as part of Evansville’s Diversity Lecture Series. He had a long history as an actor in one of the world’s iconic TV shows, a social media phenomenon and a gay rights activist to draw upon.
Takei’s persona is upbeat. In his later life he has become a social media superstar, amassing more than 9.8 million “likes” for his Facebook fan page featuring a steady stream of humorous posts, videos and photographs. He also has more than 1.8 million followers on Twitter.
But there was nothing funny about his recollections — still visibly anguished after all these years — of being herded with his family into hellish Japanese internment camps after Pearl Harbor. Takei was just 5 years old.
“It was a catastrophic change in our lives,” he said. “Overnight, we were looked at with suspicion and viewed with outright hatred simply because we looked like the people that bombed Pearl Harbor.”
Japanese Americans were hassled over loyalty questionnaires, mistreated even in their later military service and given very little at the time with which to remake their lives, Takei said. He poignantly recalled that his father died without knowing that in 1988, then-President Ronald Reagan signed legislation providing payments and apologies to Japanese Americans who were forcibly relocated in World War II.
Takei, who announced in 2005 that he is gay, also introduced to the crowd his husband of eight years, Brad.
It was nearly impossible to live openly as a gay man for much of his life, Takei said. He felt compelled to remain silent as friends died — but the climate became friendlier with judicial and legislative victories for marriage equality in Massachusetts and California in 2003 and 2005, respectively.
Most political analysts expect a substantial victory for Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump in Indiana on Nov. 8 — but Takei got wild, sustained applause with his prediction that Democrat Hillary Clinton will be elected the nation’s first female president.
At a reception after Takei’s speech, he told the Evansville Courier & Press that ostensibly conservative sections of the country would only re-enforce their conservative reputations by voting for Clinton.
“Conservative people have values, and what I’m talking about is very conservative values — our Constitution of the United States,” said Takei, a Los Angeles resident who said he often visits Indianapolis. Takei counts Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra Conductor Jack Everly among his friends.
“When you look at the lack of understanding that one candidate (Trump) has and the tremendous depth of experience that the other candidate (Clinton) has, and her policies, the difference is so dramatic that I think conservative people will go for the conservative choice — which is actually going with the Democrat,” he said.
Having praised Star Trek creators during his speech for assembling a diverse cast and presenting progressive stories, Takei joked that Indiana “is a hotbed of Star Trek fans.”
Source: Evansville Courier & Press, http://bit.ly/2d5hyYR
Information from: Evansville Courier & Press, http://www.courierpress.com