Actor and activist to speak at IU Auditorium


George Takei, "Star Trek's" original Mr. Sulu, shown holding the Olympic torch he carried in the 1984 Olympics, will give a talk titled “Diversity, Difference, Otherness: An Evening with George Takei" on Sept. 9. (Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times/TNS) Buy Photos

George Takei is a prominent figure in American culture, whether it is from his portrayal of Mr. Sulu in the original Star Trek series or his work in LGBT activism. 

Actor and activist George Takei will be appearing twice Sept. 19 on IU’s campus. Takei will be present at a screening of his documentary “To be Takei” at the IU Cinema at 3 p.m. He will also be giving a lecture at the IU Auditorium at 7 p.m. to discuss diversity, difference and otherness. 

IU Union Board and Themester 2017: Diversity, Difference and Otherness collaborated to bring Takei to campus. Themester’s planning committee chair and professor Jane McLeod said she worked hard to get George Takei to come to IU.

“He seemed to me to be a quintessential representative of conversations around diversity and inclusion,” McLeod said. “And a speaker who I thought would also appeal to students, faculty, staff in the community.”

According to the IU Auditorium’s website, Takei spent four years of his childhood imprisoned in an internment camp for Japanese Americans during World War II. McLeod said Takei brings a number of marginalized statuses to the conversation of diversity through his experiences early on as a Japanese American and later as a gay man in the entertainment industry. 

Director of Union Board’s Lectures Committee and senior Yasmine Raouf said the IU Auditorium event will include a Q & A segment after Takei’s lecture. Audience members can use the hashtag #takeitonight to tweet their questions at Union Board. Raouf said she was involved in planning the event and will be introducing Takei at the lecture. 

“I’m excited to have a pretty full house there and for it to be a really cool event and kind of a seal on what Themester is trying to do with diversity, difference and otherness,” Raouf said. “It’s really fun to be a part of and it gets me thinking about different events that I can plan throughout the semester and into the spring.”

McLeod said that while this year’s themester was chosen two years ago, it does have a heightened relevance at this particular moment, given the current political climate. However, she said questions of diversity and inclusion are always important to discuss. 

“We live in a society that always creates groups as being different and other, and always struggle with how to be radically inclusive,” McLeod said. “The topic does seem even more important this semester and this year, given the visibility of the political and social divide in the United States.”

Raouf said she is excited to meet Takei and be his escort for the event. She said Takei is such an interesting figure because so many people can relate to him. 

“He’s so cool because you can see a part of yourself in him no matter who you are and I think that’s such an important thing when you have a platform," she said. "You can speak about things so that people can also look to you and see themselves back. I think that’s so true for so many people.”

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