ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ7) Actor and activist George Takei visited the Roanoke Valley Wednesday, speaking to a capacity crowd at the Jefferson Center.
He also met with Roanoke Mayor David Bowers and addressed the controversy that led to his visit.
"Well I must say this is a spectacular panoramic view," Takei said as he visited Mill Mountain with Bowers Wednesday morning.
Bowers pointed out landmarks and provided an introduction to the city.
"I'm actually from upstate New York, so when I moved here, this was a sleepy, segregated, southern community," Bowers told Takei. "And now we have 105 different nationalities in Roanoke."
The cordial conversation follows national controversy.
The Star Trek actor and social media star took issue with a statement the mayor released last November.
Opposing the relocation of Syrian refugees to western Virginia, Bowers referred to World War II internment camps, where he said Japanese foreign nationals were "sequestered."
"It bridled me. It's totally wrong," Takei told WDBJ7 in an interview. "And it was reflecting the kind of mentality then right after Pearl Harbor, that got us imprisoned. "And I must say my blood was boiling a little bit. So I thought I would educate him," Takei said, chuckling.
Takei wants Americans to understand that most of those who were imprisoned in the camps were American citizens of Japanese descent. He should know, because he lived in one with his family from age 5 to 8 1/2.
He says he's made it his life's work to educate Americans about a shameful chapter in our history.
After getting to know the people of the Roanoke Valley he says will leave "enlightened and encouraged," that this is a vibrant community with organizations like Local Colors celebrating diversity.
"Just like on Star Trek," he said. "Infinite diversity in infinite combinations. May they live long and prosper."
Actor George Takei appeared with Mayor David Bowers Wednesday morning beneath the Mill Mountain Star.
Meeting with reporters, the two men addressed the mayor's controversial comments that led to the visit of the Star Trek star.
They took in the view of the Roanoke Valley, and Takei said he is learning more about the region. He said he has visited the city once before for a Star Trek convention.
Takei is scheduled to speak Wednesday night in a sold-out event at the Jefferson Center. He said he hopes to educate others about the internment camps where his family and other Japanese-Americans were held during World War II.
Takei is visiting Roanoke at the invitation of the city and the group Local Colors, and he said he appreciated the opportunity.
"I think we're both benefiting richly from it. I'm learning a great deal about Roanoke," Takei said to Bowers. "And I hope our discussion has enlightened you about a chapter of American history." "Indeed," Bowers responded.
The mayor has apologized for comments that brought negative attention to the city. He referred to World War II internment camps in a statement sharing his concerns about the relocation of Syrian refugees in western Virginia.