Actor, activist excites students

“In ‘Star Trek,’ our model was infinite diversity in infinite combinations, and, looking over this room here, I see that infinite diversity,” said Bryan Series speaker George Takei in his introductory remarks at the student question-and answer session on the afternoon of March 21.

Takei looked over the audience.

“I see purple hair,” said Takei. “I see multi-blue hair. And, I see no hair. Infinite diversity in infinite combinations. “

Takei’s visit to Guilford College marked the 19th year of the Bryan Series. Guilford students, faculty, staff and Greensboro community members gathered for the evening event at the Greensboro Coliseum after the on-campus student session.

During his visit, Takei spoke with students and faculty in the East Gallery of Founders Hall earlier in the day before his larger event at the Greensboro Coliseum.

Takei has a large social media presence that contributed to students’ excitement.

“You read his bio, and it goes from starring in ‘Star Trek’ to speaking about Japanese-American internment to being a social media icon to helping to create a Broadway musical to LGBTQ activism,” said Bryan Series intern and sophomore Anna Kelly. “He’s everywhere. He’s done so much in his life.

“The most exciting part of this event for me wasn’t actually about George. The most exciting thing for me was seeing how much our school community stepped up to be a part of this event.”

Typically, 200 tickets are given out to students and faculty. For this event, around 450 free tickets were given.

The gasps and applause when Takei walked into the room amply expressed his popularity and fame among Guilfordians.

Professors brought their students to the question-and-answer portion, and it became an event focused on shared learning.

Junior Ellie Weiner attended both events and explained that she appreciated Takei’s commitment to the arts.

“Allegiance” is Takei’s musical introducing the Japanese internment camps during World War II to a wide audience.

“Most Americans probably don’t know about the internment camps,” said Takei. “Musicals can be so important. They raise awareness of something through art that so many aren’t aware of.”

This event directly connected with student’s lessons in their courses.

The theater department and the Holocaust Theology class taught by Assistant Professor of Religious Studies Jill Peterfeso went to the question-and-answer portion.

“George hit a really important topic that is close to our school’s heart: diversity,” said Kelly. “With the following political week our state had, that couldn’t be more needed.”

Associate Director of the Bryan Series Suzanne Ingram shared her excitement over Takei’s visit.

“He is able to capture the attention of such a broad audience,” said Ingram. “He is an icon.”

Ingram explained that he fit in so well with Guilfordians because of his spirit of activism.

“‘Star Trek’ was so ahead of its time because it was so important (to the directors) to represent diversity,” said Ingram. “It was done in a way that was accepted.”

Takei shared the reasoning behind his decision to come out of the closet with the audience.

“He came out as gay to protest what was going on in California,” said Ingram.

Takei publicly came out to protest a political decision made by Arnold Schwarzenegger.

He called the audience to embrace diversity in his Bryan Series speech and now leaves Guilford with a political call to action to move beyond the Bryan Series.

“The City of Charlotte, NC had sought simply to protect LGBT persons from discrimination,” said Takei in a Facebook post. “This law was the state legislature’s awful response. Bigotry is alive and well in North Carolina. Just this week, I was in Greensboro, NC speaking to over 2,600 students at Guilford College about the dark legacy of discrimination in this country; today I sadly must join in calls for a boycott of the state. Please help get word out and stop such pernicious laws from being enacted.”

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