Air Force Academy Encourages New Cadets to Read George Takei’s ‘They Called Us Enemy’

Air Force Academy

The U.S. Air Force Academy (USAFA) has given out copies of George Takei’s 2019 graphic memoir to new cadets, hoping that it helps get “our basics ready for what’s ahead.”

Why this matters: In “They Called Us Enemy,” Takei recounted his younger years in an incarceration camp during World War II when the U.S. effectively legalized racism against Japanese people.

  • Densho, a nonprofit committed to preserving and sharing the history of the incarceration, estimates that 126,000 Japanese Americans were detained. Takei, who was born in Boyle Heights, Los Angeles, is one of them.
  • In his memoir, Takei also shares “his mother’s hard choices, his father’s faith in democracy and the way those experiences planted the seeds for his astonishing future.” In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, he said it was “the internment and my father’s good guidance that made me the activist that I am.”
  • At 84, Takei continues to be an advocate of social justice. He recently criticized a new Republican-backed bill in Florida that requires professors and students in public universities to register their political views.

Behind USAFA’s initiative: The Academy selected Takei’s book as part of its “One Book. One USAFA.” initiative, which debuted in the summer of 2020.

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  • The initiative aims to create at least one shared experience for basic cadets, returning cadets, senior leaders, military trainers and more. Takei’s book was distributed on Thursday.
  • “Welcome Class of 2025! We are so excited for this year’s ‘One Book One USAFA’ read ‘They Called Us Enemy,’” Dean Brigadier General Linell Letendre announced on Instagram.
  • In a follow-up post, Letendre said the shared institutional read focused on dignity and respect. “We are getting our basics ready for what’s ahead,” she added.

Featured Image via @usafa_dean (left), Gage Skidmore (right; CC BY-SA 2.0)

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