George Takei, a world-renowned actor and social justice activist visited USF on Monday and shared his life journey and the many lessons he’s learned along the way.
During his moving speech, one moment stood above the rest. Takei, through sharing stories of overcoming oppression, left students with a strong call to action.
And it’s a call to action against the slippery slope of hate and fear.
Takei warned students the current presidential election was disturbing due to the hateful rhetoric and far-reaching statements made by many of the candidates and their followers.
He shared brief tales of his rise to fame, coming to terms with his homosexuality and, most significantly, living through the persecution of Japanese-Americans by the U.S. government during World War II.
Today, modern terrorism and the increasing fear across the globe have caused some to begin to call for radical remedies to the war on terror.
“I hear the echoes of the 1940s,” Takei said.
The oppression of Japanese-Americans in World War II is one of the lowest points in U.S. history. The constitutional rights of thousands of citizens were completely neglected and abused due to the fear sweeping the nation.
In today’s society, fear is something everyone has learned to carry with them. The U.S. has been at war since 9/11 and despite our best efforts, terrorism is only continuing to grow. It is increasingly unsafe to travel across the globe and the abundance of recent attacks has created a tense atmosphere as candidates express their drastic views on fighting terrorism.
The growing fear has caused many Americans to at least consider the cost of some of the more radical views expressed by candidates like Ted Cruz’s plan to monitor Muslim communities across the country.
Yet Takei reminded students what obstructing citizens rights in the name of freedom truly looks like.
“I could see the barbed wire fence and the sentry tower right outside my schoolhouse window as I recited the words ‘with liberty and justice for all,’” Takei said.
The moment hatred is allowed reign in our government, true liberty and justice will fall apart. It is vital Americans refuse to give in to fear when electing a leader and supporting their initiatives.
For Takei, the answer laid with the citizens of this country. Only a unified voice of citizens can ensure our government does not overstep its bounds and restrict rights in an effort to appease fear.
“It is people who actively engage in the democratic process that make things happen, that make progress happen,” he said.
Soon, the presidential nominees will be chosen and the bitter campaign for the White House will quickly escalate. But we must remember that radicalism often leads to infringements of citizens’ rights.
They say those who do not know their history are bound to repeat it. Takei is taking that lesson seriously as he travels the nation sharing his life story in order to educate the public on a time when this country utterly failed to be the land of the free.
“That’s my mission in life: to make sure that Americans know that one time when the Constitution of the United States was egregiously violated against innocent American citizens who happened to look like the people who bombed Pearl Harbor,” he said.
Breanne Williams is a junior majoring in mass communications.