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Response to 9/11

I was the first Chairman of the Board when we opened the Pavilion building. And shortly after that, 9/11 happened in New York. We Japanese Americans immediately sensed the ripple effects that might go out from that to Arab Americans.

The first meeting after 9/11, Irene Hirano, our President then and CEO had some connections with the Arab American community in Detroit. Or, Dearborne. And we moved our first board meeting from Los Angeles to Deerborne, Michigan. And we heard from the leaders of the Arab American community and their concerns. And we shared with them the hysteria that engulfed the Japanese American community and that we will work as strenuously as we can to prevent that kind of hysteria that was inflicted on us from happening to the Arab American community.

It did happen. Not on the scale that it happened to Japanese Americans, but there still was that. And we'd like to think that the existence of the museum and the voice of Japanese Americans - at that time, Norm Mineta, one of our trustees, was on the President's cabinet as Secretary of Transportation - and so our voice, the existence of the museum, and the presence of Japanese Americans throughout the American community, I think, helped to temper the kind of hysteria that affected Japanese Americans in 1942.

Japanese Americans

Date: February 3, 2015

Location: California, US

Interviewer: John Esaki, Janice Tanaka

Contributed by: Watase Media Arts Center, Japanese American National Museum

Interviewee Bio

George Hosato Takei was born in Los Angeles in 1937 to an Issei father, Takekuma Norman Takei, and Nisei mother, Fumiko Emily Nakamura. He was only five years old when his family was rounded up along with 120,000 other Japanese Americans and sent to concentration camps by the U.S. government following the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor. 

He earned both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in theater at the University of California, Los Angeles and embarked on a career in theater, television, and film. In 1966 he was cast as U.S. Lieutenant Hikaru Sulu on the groundbreaking TV series Star Trek.

In addition to his acting career, Takei has been highly active in public and community service, including serving on the board of the Southern California Rapid Transit District and has been an active and generous member of the Japanese American National Museum Board of Trustees since its inception. 

Since coming out as gay in 2005, Takei has become an effective advocate for LGBT rights, speaking widely about his own experiences, holding public figures accountable for homophobic comments, and serving as a spokesperson for the Human Rights Campaign. Takei has enjoyed a renewed wave of popularity in recent years thanks to the infectious humor and warmth of his Facebook page, which has over eight million followers. 

Updated May 2015

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