Holiday Reflections

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December, 2002

LOS ANGELES - This is the beginning of the last month of the year and it's a good time to pause, reflect, and take measure of the events that took place over the past twelve months. It has been, for me, a time filled with some glorious highs as well as the lows that seemingly are the inevitable attendants of life.

The year began with a pilgrimage to Ground Zero in New York City in the bitter cold of January. The devastation I witnessed there, most certainly, was not inevitable. It was madness - a grotesque cruelty that festered out of the ugliness of blind hate. The last time I visited the World Trade Center, it was the vibrant economic beehive of the world. What I saw this time was a vast, hideous void. But I also talked to David Lim, an officer with the Port Authority Police, who was an inspiration. He had rescued countless people from the fiery north tower of the complex, went down with the collapse of the building and miraculously survived. Out of the chaos and tragedy came so many stories of incredible courage, humanity and valor.

This was the year that I lost my beloved mother, Fumiko Emily Takei, after a prolonged illness. Her death, at 89 years, was almost a relief of sorts because the struggle she put up against the series of assaults on her was so ravaging. She lived with me the final three years of her life and her passing left an aching emptiness. But the kindness and compassion of so many friends and relatives that surrounded me were life affirming. The memory of her love and a life fully lived will be a lasting comfort.

This year was when we held the summer meeting of the Board of Trustees of the Japanese American National Museum in Dearborn, Michigan, because the largest Arab American community in the nation is resident there. The backlash of blind hatred and suspicion that the Arab Americans have suffered in the wake of September 11th resonates deeply with the Japanese American experience after Pearl Harbor. By coming together as fellow Americans and sharing our experiences, we worked to remind the nation that we must not repeat the mistakes of history. Our constitutional guarantees of due process must not be pitted against expedients of national security. America has become better but our democracy is a continuing work in progress that can be intensely challenged at times of national crisis.

This was also a joyous year. I returned to the stage with a concert production of Stephen Sondheim's "Pacific Overtures" in Dayton, Ohio. It was wonderful working with Dayton's Human Race Theatre Company and a cast of gifted singer-actors in a piece that I consider a classic of our times. The play is about the opening up of Japan from its centuries long isolation by Commodore Matthew Perry of the U.S. Navy. Next year, 2003, is the 150th anniversary of that historic visit.

A flight to Hawaii is always a joyful occasion but my trip there in September was especially happy. Aloha shirts, floral leis and juicy fresh pineapples were not the only enticements. My mission was to serve as a master of ceremonies for what was billed as the Aloha Peace Concert with jazz greats, Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter. At a time when threats of war were in the air, this concert for peace was an opportunity to both comment on our times as well as connect with history. It was here at Pearl Harbor that the last world war began for our country. Herbie, Wayne, and I placed wreaths at the Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor in a prayer for peace.

As if to round out that chapter of history, my next trip the following month took me to Hiroshima, Japan. It was here, where the first atomic bomb in history was dropped, that was the beginning of the end of that world war. The desire for peace in Hiroshima is almost palpable. The great park in the center of the city is called Peace Park. The museum housing the horrible artifacts of the bombing is called the Hiroshima Peace Museum. A bridge, designed by famed Japanese American sculptor, Isamu Noguchi, is named Peace Bridge. My mission here was to meet with the governor of Hiroshima to build on the relationship that had been established earlier this year by a visit of an exhibit of the Japanese American National Museum. From such sharing comes understanding that can lead to happier, fuller, more peaceful relationships between nations.

A blessing that came unexpectedly out of the Hollywood blue last month is a wonderful role in an exciting independent film titled "Patient 14." I play a research scientist involved in a highly secret governmental project in this techno-thriller. John De Lancie from the Next Generation of Star Trek is a fellow researcher in the project with me. A lovely and talented young actress, Lucy Jenner, plays the lead. Keep an eye on her. I think her star will soar high.

And on this final month of the year, I continue some of my most enjoyable activities. I fly off for my annual visit to my beloved Dickensian London for shopping and theatre-going, and then hop over to Mannheim, Germany, for a Christmas party with devoted Star Trek fans. With all that the year brings - the wonderful blessings as well as the heartbreaking losses - it is these warming realities, the friendships, the people and things one loves that make life good.

I wish all of you a very happy holiday season.

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