Once again I have to congratulate Jay Klaphake and his TEDxKyoto team of volunteers for organizing a splendid event at Kyoto University of Foreign Studies today!
It was a delight to see Patrick Linehan speak here again, this time on the effect his last speech at TEDxKyoto has had on his life and also on the lives of others. In September he told us to embrace the qualities that make us different and celebrate them. Today he told us how he is now often recognized by people who have seen this talk, and how they tell him how much they have been encouraged by it. One young lady told him he had inspired her to come out to her parents. Another young man was inspired to embrace his transgender identity. As before Mr. Linehan’s speech was characterised by its warmth and gentle humour and left us all feeling highly motivated.
George Takei then took the stage and told us of his family’s terrible experiences during and immediately after World War 2. Rounded up into internment camps at the outbreak of the war for simply being Japanese-American, they lost everything, and after enduring the hardships of the camps they had to start again after the war was over from the poorest conditions. Despite these hardships however, young George Takei was inspired by his own father’s fervent belief in democracy and by those young Japanese-Americans who despite the discrimination they faced at home signed up to defend democracy and bravely fought in the European theater of war. In particular he told us of the 442nd Infantry Regiment, the most decorated regiment in the history of the US army. In an especially memorable story, he told us of one battle where they helped to break the Gothic Line, the last major line of German Defense in the latter stages of the war. To break the line of defense, the 442nd regiment scaled a sheer cliff under cover of night and launched a surprise attack the following day. Many soldiers fell to their deaths while attempting to climb that cliff – but George told us, even as they fell they did not cry out, for they did not want to give their comrades’ position away. They fell silently.
This legendary heroism did much to curb anti-Japanese-American sentiment back in the US, and the courage of the 442nd regiment has also inspired George Takei in his own role as a political activist and equal rights campaigner.
After the TEDxKyoto event had ended and all the TEDx regalia cleared away, Patrick Linehan and George Takei brought their husbands out onto the stage for a general discussion and Q&A session*. I was moved by the overall emphasis on how love overcomes all differences, and how diversity whether of gender orientation, or culture, or even age should be celebrated because it simply makes life more interesting. I was very happy to stand at the end of the event with those around me and offer the speakers the “Live long and prosper” Vulcan salute!
It was a great way to spend a Wednesday morning! More than anything I noticed the gleeful, happy expressions of all the attendees simply because they had the opportunity to see the legendary Mr. Takei. For my own part I was very excited and woke up humming the Star Trek theme this morning! It was also a good opportunity to catch up with some old friends and to meet for the first time some others who I have previously only communicated with online.
So once again congratulations and many thanks to the TEDxKyoto team for hosting today’s event. It was an absolute triumph, and I look forward to many more!
*The Q&A session was not a part of the TEDXKyoto event but an extra event that followed it.