ORDER NOW!

TAKEI'S TAKE (YOUTUBE)
TWITTER
FACEBOOK
PINTEREST
BLOG
BIO
ALLEGIANCE: A NEW MUSICAL
JAPAN FANS
HOWARD STERN
GALLERY
WEDDING
VIDEO
ARCHIVE
CONTACT
HOME



BLOG



June, 2003

A Salute to Liberty

by George Takei

LOS ANGELES - In celebrating the diversity of America, the United States government recognizes the heritage of each group of ethnic Americans virtually every month of the year. May has been designated Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, and, in observation of it, I was invited by the U.S. Department of Defense to tour seven military bases in Germany. Asian Pacific American heritage is a topic that I have spoken on before but I sensed that the Star Trek magnet had something to do with the invitation as well. I accepted the invitation with relish.

Last month, the war in Iraq was an issue that had many in our nation -- and the world -- at odds with each other. But, whether hawk or dove or an owl somewhere in between, I think many of us felt a strong connection with the U.S. and British soldiers on the battlefield. They were our friends and neighbors out there in Iraq. Their courage and sacrifice, their professionalism and technological effectiveness, were amazing. I swelled with pride as I saw the brutal dictatorship of Saddam Hussein brought down by our combat forces.

As I watched the news on television, I saw something else. I saw an American military that I had not seen before. I saw both men and women of all races as soldiers, and, distressingly, as prisoners of war and as casualties. I saw a U.S. military that truly reflected the vast diversity of American society today. I wanted to visit the military communities in Germany to thank our soldiers for a job well done and their families for their sacrifices. I also wanted to applaud the U.S. Army for its progressive diversity program. This rare opportunity was something like a non-singing, non-dancing, all-talking Bob Hope tour of our military communities in Germany. In addition, as it turned out, the tour included convivial gatherings with groups of Star Trek friends as well.

It was a whirlwind tour. Two nights in Bamberg, a couple of nights in Ansbach, then on to Hohenfels, a night in Heidelberg, then two in Darmstadt, a weekend in Mannheim, then on to Wurzburg. It was constant packing and unpacking, meeting the brass and signing autographs for the soldiers, traveling from one base to another with my speech, "A Salute to Liberty" on Asian Pacific American heritage, at each base as the centerpiece. I collected plaques, beer steins, commemorative coins, and other gifts after each speech. The welcome was tremendous. The tour was exhilarating and enlightening. I saw and experienced so much. A tour of the Combat Maneuver Training Center at Hohenfels, with cutting edge technology combined with a Hollywood back-lot style recreation of a Slavic village complete with Slavic-speaking villagers more believable than any Hollywood extra, was most impressive. At Ansbach, I sat in an Apache helicopter wearing a high tech helmet equipped with night vision targeting lens. I visited storybook villages with cobble-stoned streets that were hundreds of years old. I toured regal palaces. The Residence, the palatial home of the Bishop prince of Wurzburg, was gloriously restored after the devastating bombing it suffered during World War II. The formal garden at the palace of Swartzengen was almost as spectacular as the one at Versailles. In a magnificent sarcophagus on the altar of the Cathedral of Bamberg are the remains of the only Pope outside of the Vatican. In Bamberg, I discovered a great beer unique to that town called routbier that has a rich, dusky tang like smoke. It has to be tasted to be appreciated. The tour was memorable, made even more unforgettable by a vegetable called spargel -- a rare, seasonal white asparagus. I happened to be there at the height of spargel season. As an honored guest of constantly changing hosts, this prized delicacy was served to me at almost every dinner at each stop. As a good guest, I enjoyed the spargel until it almost grew out of my ears. The welcome was generous and warmly embracing. Glowing memories of my tour of Germany will be with me forever. My heartiest appreciations to all of the good people at each of the military communities I visited for their grand hospitality. And a special note of thanks to Sharon Yelder of the U.S. Department of Defense in Germany. She is the indefatigable problem-solver who initiated the idea of my visit and coordinated the entire trip with grace and skill.

Wherever I go, there are communities of Star Trek friends as well. I had visited Mannheim less than six months ago for a Star Trek convention but there we were together again - organized by dear Sylvia Strybuc. This was another wonderful opportunity to enjoy a convivial Saturday evening with old friends and new fans. Roger Hofstetter and friends even drove in from Basel, Switzerland, to join us. It was wonderful.

At the end of my military tour, I gave myself a few days in Munich. Filip Krejcik, a friend who lives not far from Munich, picked me up for a visit to his village, Deggendorf. He had even arranged for a guide from the city tourist bureau. Deggendorf is a charming, formerly walled village with an historic Rathaus or city hall. We climbed the ancient stone steps of the Rathaus spire to its very top. We saw the quarters of the keeper of the spire who rang the old city bell. The view from his window was panoramic. From the medieval spire of the Rathaus, we strolled through the village down to the primordial flow of the great river of Europe, the Danube. A lone sculler was practicing on the fast-flowing water. That evening, we had a specially prepared dinner at Filip's new restaurant called Vis a Vis. It was salmon served with that special recurring treat, spargel -- another unforgettable dining experience.

One day of my stay in Munich was spent at a somber historic landmark nearby - the concentration camp at Dachau. Today, it is a museum of the inconceivable horrors that went on there. At the entrance is a wrought iron gate with the words, "Arbeit macht frei" - work makes you free - shaped in iron into it. Two of the barracks that housed the prisoners have been rebuilt. The others are only indicated by the row after row of the concrete foundations that remain. The gas showers and the crematorium remain chillingly as they were right beside each other. The main administration building, which also housed the kitchen and washroom, is the principal exhibit area. It is hard to walk through the displays of such barbarous inhumanity. I learned that the concentration camp was built in 1933 as a prison initially for the political opponents of the Nazis. Then the gypsies were rounded up, followed by the homosexuals, then the religious leaders. It was after "kristallnacht," - the night of the anti-Jewish rampage in November 1938 - that the Jews began to be brought to Dachau. It was a sobering reminder that injustice against any isolated minority, no matter how distant and unrelated, becomes a menace to me. In the climate of terrorist anxiety today, we must be mindful that the threat to the civil liberties of Arab Americans also becomes an assault on me. It is, as well, a threat to the fundamental ideals of America. As I viewed the exhibit at Dachau, I understood profoundly why we Americans celebrate Asian Pacific American heritage in the month of May and observe the heritage of other groups throughout the year. We are all connected. Out of the dark lessons of history, I hope we can forge a brighter tomorrow.

 



MORE BLOGS



2011
Japan

2010
George Takei Statement on Proposition 8

Andrew Koenig

2008
Majel Barrett Roddenberry

George Takei Statement on William Shatner

Marriage Equality Comes to California

You Gotta Have Friends

2007
George Takei on Casting of John Cho as Sulu

2006
Second Wind

George's Statement on the Star Trek Feature Daily Variety Story

The Forty-Year Trek

Why Howard Stern?

January, 2006
The Year of Equus

2005
Tribute to Pat Morita

November, 2005
Equality and Justice For All

Tribute to Jimmy

May, 2005
Catfish, Scholars, and a Geisha Party

April, 2005
Two Surprising Gifts

March, 2005
Measuring TV Viewers

February, 2005
Oscars: the Luckiest of the Best

January, 2005
New York, New York

2004
December, 2004
Tsunami of Compassion

November, 2004
An Emperor, Abe Lincoln, and Four Presidents

October, 2004
Fund-raising with fun raising

September, 2004
Life Interrupted

August, 2004
Celebrating Three Legends

July, 2004
Dense Enrichment

June, 2004
Seattle: The Crucible of Imagination

May, 2004
High Times Down Under

April, 2004
Trekkin' in Japan

March, 2004
An Actor's New York

February, 2004
They Call Her Osama

January, 2004
Caribbean Seatrek

2003
December, 2003
My Arkansas Roots

November, 2003
A Month of Glory and Fury

October, 2003
Jet Lag Reminiscences

September, 2003
Supporters and Whoopee!

August, 2003
Beaming Back in Time

July, 2003
Hawaii, Chicago, Tulsa and Kiribati

June, 2003
A Salute to Liberty

May, 2003
Renewal and Nurturing

April, 2003
The Human Spirit

March, 2003
An Anglophile Angeleno

February, 2003
NASA Must Rise Again

January, 2003
A Shiny Double Bow

2002
December, 2002
Holiday Reflections

November, 2002
"Omiyage" Gifts from Japan

October, 2002
Historic Travels

September, 2002
Oscar-Winning Movies

August, 2002
Summer Visitors

July, 2002
Mama's "Pacific Overtures"

June, 2002
Fumiko Emily Takei, 1912 - 2002

May, 2002
Flight of Angels

April, 2002
Surviving a Texas Storm

March, 2002
Hooray for Hollywood; Boo on Secession

February, 2002
Sacramento Roots

January, 2002
Bearing Witness

2001
December, 2001
A Hundred Million Miracles

November, 2001
Serendipitous London

October, 2001
The Aftermath

September 11, 2001
A Special Message

September, 2001
Summertime at the Hollywood Bowl

August, 2001
Voice Transporter

July, 2001
Two American Monuments

June, 2001
Luck Be a Lady

May, 2001
A Global Banquet Table

April, 2001
Joy and Disappointment

March, 2001
Two Guys Named David

February, 2001
Wisdom from a Volcano

January, 2001
Millennial London

2000
December, 2000
Japan - From the Past to the Cutting Edge

November, 2000
Counting My Blessings

October, 2000
The Mother of an Actor

September, 2000
Hanover Expo 2000

August, 2000
Rockin' in the Northwest

July, 2000
Global Interchange

June, 2000
Sky High Challenge

May, 2000
A Month of Theater

April, 2000
Excelsior Passion

March, 2000
Alien World Right Below

February, 2000
Hawaii Connections

January, 2000
A New Beginning

1999
December, 1999
Millennium Musings

November, 1999
Power of Ingenuity

October, 1999
Back to a Diverse Future

September, 1999
Our Human Linkage

August, 1999
Equatorial Launch to the Stars

July, 1999
Celebration of Diversity



The Official Website of George Takei is Copyright Hosato Enterprises, Inc. 1999-2014 All Rights Reserved