Actor George Takei addresses FedTalks 2014.
To many of us, he’s a virtual presence known for his social media following.
But George Takei visited DC in person last week to serve as the keynote speaker at FedTalks 2014, held by media and conference company FedScoop at the Andrew Mellon Auditorium.
In his remarks, the Star Trek actor discussed his experiences in a Japanese-American internment camp as a young boy during World War II. He rolled the discussion of being inspired by his heroes in the Japanese-American 442nd Infantry Regiment and his parents.
His memories and research into that time led to him starring in a musical, Allegiance, which will head to Broadway in 2015. Takei credited his social medial clout with bolstering awareness of the play and its related issues.
“By trial and error, I built my small base of sci-fi geeks and nerds into a bigger one,” Takei told the audience, saying he started the conversation with his Twitter followers and others through humor, and later addressed social justice issues.
When the opportunity came, Takei was able to discuss the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II on his social media platforms, and eventually his musical, Allegiance. The producers of Allegiance staged it initially at the Old Globe Theatre in San Diego, where it broke attendance records and won recognition as best musical from the San Diego Critic’s Circle.
“It’s a story that takes place during a dark chapter of American history that most Americans still to this day know nothing about,” Takei said of Allegiance, which follows the story of a family of Americans forcibly relocated from their home in California to an internment camp, and what follows for them.
Takei recalled with particular disgust the questionnaire given to male Japanese held at the camps. To ascertain their fitness to join the U.S. Army, they were given a questionnaire that asked them to swear loyalty to the United States of America and to foreswear allegiance to the Emperor of Japan.
“For the government to assume to assume we had an inborn genetic loyalty to the Emperor was offense. We are Americans,” he declared.
Takei was proud of his parents for answering no to the questionnaire because they had no loyalty to Japan to foreswear.
On a happier note, Takei expressed his gratitude to his fans who embraced awareness of the issues raised by the musical Allegiance and supported it.
You can follow George Takei at https://twitter.com/GeorgeTakei.
Listen to low-quality audio of Takei’s remarks: