George Takei, the famed Star Trek actor and LGBT rights activist, made an appearance on campus on Feb. 9 as a part of Spotlight’s Distinguished Speaker Series.
Though the audience was filled with “Trekkies”, Takei’s speech went much deeper than his adventures on the Starship Enterprise as Hikaru Sulu. He spoke to a packed crowd about his rise to Star Trek fame, his struggles in internment camps during World War II, and his fight for LGBT rights.
Takei described the emotions he felt leading up to his family being taken to the camps and the experience of living there as a 5-year-old child.
“Weeks after my fifth birthday, we were ordered out of our home at gunpoint,” Takei said. “I will never forget that moment.”
Takei said he did not fully realize the severity of his situation just yet, though, since he was only five-years-old. When discussing the search light that followed him at night when he ran from his barrack to the latrine, he said his five-year-old self “thought it was kind of nice that they’d lit the way for me to pee.”
Takei also paid specific attention to his development as a gay man and an advocate for LGBT rights.
He started realizing he was “different” at a young age and said it made him “feel very alone”, sometimes isolated from his friends. His discovery of gay bars allowed him to let his guard down a bit, but he said that at the time “police raids” on gay bars were common. Takei compared them to the raids by American soldiers on Japanese-Americans during World War II.
He said the resistance against the raids inspired him to fight for gay rights, eventually becoming a leading advocate for marriage equality. Referencing a 2005 California bill which aimed to legalize gay marriage that was eventually vetoed by Arnold Schwarzenegger, Takei said “I spoke to the press for the first time as a gay man and blasted Schwarzenegger’s veto.”
Takei’s appearance at Georgia State is one of many of his attempts to reach out to college students. He recently visited Southern Methodist University and Pennsylvania State University.
In an interview with The Signal, Takei said he believes reaching out to young people, in ways such as making speeches on college campuses, is important.
“The young people are going to be the ones that determine the future of this country,” he said.
Takei told The Signal about his disdain for President Donald Trump and his policies.
“We will do all that we can to bring Donald Trump’s presidency tenure to a quick end,” he said. “I think on so many levels, Donald Trump has been so disruptive: economically, being against free trade. We’re a global society.”
In the interview he also spoke out against the electoral college voting system that helped elect Trump.
“Structurally, our voting system now I think is outdated,” Takei said. “I think the first business on the agenda is to eliminate the electoral college process and go by the popular vote.”