Galactica star emphasizes common heritage
Published: Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Updated: Tuesday, September 29, 2009 03:09
Edward James Olmos is the new Johnny Cash — or so he claims — wearing all black and having a demeanor as cool as the country legend himself.
But Olmos is an actor, best known for his roles of Gaff in "Blade Runner," Abraham Quintanillain "Selena" and most notably, Admiral William Adama in the TV series "Battlestar Galactica." He is also a director and producer. His newest role will be featured in the upcoming film "The Green Hornet," starring Seth Rogen.
Outside of Hollywood, Olmos is a prominent figure in the Hispanic community. "Hispanic Magazine" named him as the nation's most influential Hispanic-American celebrity speaker. Olmos spoke at the university on Thursday, kicking off Latino Heritage Month. The lecture was sponsored by the Center for Black Culture, Multicultural Programs, La Raza, HOLA, the National Association of Latino Fraternal Organizations, the office of the dean of students, Residence Life, Student Centers, the office of equity and inclusion, the Commission to Promote Racial and Cultural Diversity and the theatre department.
Olmos spoke not only of his celebrity status and personal achievements, but focused on the world today and how we as human beings need to unite not just this country but the world.
His talk began with the notion that we, the human race, are all family.
"When you look at Edward James Olmos, you remember that I'm African first, proud of it, Asian second, proud of it, Indigenous third, mixed with European — and that's what makes me brown. Tada," Olmos says.
Olmos says he still cherishes his Hispanic-American heritage.
"I am Chicano, and proud of it," he says.
"My indigenous roots have been in the Americas for 41,000 years," he says. "Forty-one thousand years ago my ancestors came across the Baring Straight and they were Asian, and before I was Asian, 150,000 years ago, my direct lineage comes from Africa."
He dared the audience to look at him not as a Hispanic-American, but as a human being.
Without hesitation the audience cheered in laughter. Olmos ended by saying that since everyone has the same ancestors everyone can speak to one another as brothers.
A serious tone slowly took over the Trabant Multipurpose Room as Olmos spoke about his position on the word "race" and his experience as a guest speaker at the United Nations Assembly two months ago.
Olmos says he doesn't like using race as a cultural determinant. He explained how the word race has been used in history as a scapegoat for one group of people to kill another.
"There are distinct cultures, but only one race," Olmos says. "Race was used because you don't kill your own race, but you can kill a different race."
Then, with a firm and steadfast tone, as if Admiral Adama himself had entered the Assembly, he says, "There's no such thing as a brown race, or a black race, or a white race. There's only one race, and that's the human race, period."
Olmos' profound words influenced the United Nations to change its charter by taking out references to race.
"The word race will never be used as a cultural determinant again," Olmos says.
The atmosphere of the room brightened with a big smile and joke from Olmos.
"If you have race relation courses here [at the University of Delaware]…change it," he says.
He applied themes, such as reconciliation between two fighting cultures, from his popular show, "Battlestar Galactica," to today's world.
"Reconciliation, the ability to reconcile our differences, and to come together for a common purpose, that was the show," Olmos says.
Olmos shifted his focus to an idea of a solution for creating equality in the world. He asked the audience if they are able to name a colored person, American born, who has made a contribution and is nationally recognized.
"There is only one colored person nationally recognized for his contribution to America, Martin Luther King Jr.," he says. "There needs to be more education on the cultures of the world and not just American and European history and their accomplishments."
Olmos used vitamins as a metaphor for education, explaining that like vitamins, education, along with other components, is essential for survival.
"Self-esteem, self respect and self worth are key ingredients to making people know what they can be, and education gives them that ability," Olmos says.
When asked for his advice to the students as the next generation of leaders, he quickly replied that the students are ready for the challenge and offered advice to the leaders of tomorrow.
"Education of the mind is the key ingredient," Olmos says. "It doesn't stop when you get out of college, get your master's or PhD, that's only the beginning. The more you give, the more you receive. And what you learn from helping others is unprecedented. There's nothing that gives you more self-esteem and self worth then helping someone."
To see a video interview with Edward James Olmos