On June 2, 2023, at the Graduate Center CUNY Commencement, I had the wonderful honor of introducing George Takei, most famous as Sulu on Star Trek, and, beyond, as an unstoppable activist on behalf of LGBT rights, anti-racism, and other just causes. He gave a passionate, rousing commencement speech and was awarded an honorary doctorate by the Graduate Center CUNY and is now “Dr. George Takei.”
I am very happy to say that Dr. Takei was as gracious, wise, witty, kind, and generous as we all dream he would be. He signed a copy of his incredible graphic memoir, They Called Us Enemy, for my beloved nephew Kris (whose own Japanese-American relatives had also been interned in World War II), and one for me. Dr. Takei’s graciousness is equal to his talent and his political conviction.
Below is the very beautiful and power introduction that the Graduate Center communications team prepared for the event and reproduced here with permission. Thank you to Bonnie Eissner, Abe Loomis, and Wendy Fuentes.
George Takei Citation, for Presentation of an Honorary Doctorate, Graduate Center, CUNY, June 2, 2023
You first found success with television voyages among the stars, and your explorations have continued at warp speed.
Through a lifetime of art and service, you have earned awards and accolades, along with the trust and adoration of millions. You are a pioneering actor, a New York Times bestselling author, a Broadway star, a Grammy-nominated recording artist, and an activist who uses social media for social good. With inimitable style, you have mastered the art of mass communication, using your platform to advocate for equality and to be an encouraging ally for countless followers. You have become an abiding source of humor, hope, and inspiration.
Your sense of justice was forged in hardship. In 1942, you and your family were among the more than 125,000 Japanese Americans unjustly imprisoned by the United States government. In your brilliant graphic memoir, They Called Us Enemy, you brought this harrowing experience painfully to life and issued a clarion call not to repeat the mistakes of the past. Your justified anger at this unconstitutional imprisonment has been tempered by your steadfast belief in the American dream, which you have lived as few others have. Your persistent choice has been the same as your father’s. As he put it: “to help America be what it claims to be.”
You have never been content to let your successes be yours alone. Instead, you have used your platform to advance the marginalized, fighting for LGBTQ rights and marriage equality. You
have confronted hatred and hypocrisy wherever you have found them and celebrated the progress of justice and equity everywhere.
In so doing, you have transcended the bounds of conventional celebrity — boldly going where very few have gone before to become a true cultural icon. Even as we have marveled at your abundant talent and meteoric rise, your wit has kept us firmly grounded.
For harnessing your extraordinary talents and renown to advance social justice and ensure that America fulfills its promise as a democracy, the Graduate Center of The City University of New York proudly confers upon you the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa, with all the rights and privileges pertaining thereto.