Lieutenant General Richard M. Clarke, Superintendent, US Air Force Academy (USAFA), invited actor George Takei to be the keynote speaker at their annual National Character and Leadership Symposium (NCLS). The theme for this year’s NCLS symposium was titled “Ethics and Respect for Human Dignity.” General Clarke mandated that the Class of 2025 read Takei’s book, “They Called Us Enemy.”
Last June, I was asked to get in touch with George to see if he would talk to the USAFA Cadets about his book and the incarceration experience. Last month I attended this event, and the response from the Cadets has been tremendous, according to a current NCLS staff member who worked on my staff during my three-year Japan assignment.
The story about the Nisei experience during WWII cannot remain a dark chapter in our American history. For perspective, some Nisei exercised their constitutional rights to protest, others challenged the constitutionality of the removal and detention orders, and others volunteered to serve in the US military.
Takei shared his view about his incarceration through the lens of a young boy because his father explained to him that “they were on a long vacation”. He later contrasted that view by reflecting on the incarceration experience as an adult. George stated that he began to realize the underlying trauma attached to those events and the injustice of it all.
The USAFA Superintendent’s courage to mandate that these future officers look at this chapter of American history and hear about it from George Takei is encouraging. His efforts to broaden the audience about the legacy of the Nisei experience during WWII with the future leaders of the US Air Force and US Space Force is reassuring because history is bound to repeat itself if we are not mindful of past trespasses. George also referred to the battle record of the 100thBtn, 442 RCT and the MIS and shared that many volunteered from the “camps.” One cadet told me that it was remarkable that anyone would have volunteered to serve under those circumstances.