Star Trek: The Next Generation star LeVar Burton inspired fans gathered in the Centennial ballroom Monday. Burton spoke highly of the inclusive continuum fostered by Star Trek founder Gene Roddenberry in adding people of color and with disabilities to the cast. Burton, who portrayed the visually impaired Geordi LaForge, continues to work toward advances similar to the visor worn by LaForge in TNG episodes. Doctors, scientists, and NASA personnel are working together to develop this technology for the mass market at the LeVar Burton Center for Enhanced Vision Technology at West Virginia University.
Burton also recalled his role in the epic series Roots. He said “Roots is not African-American history; it’s American history.” Burton noted that race is “still at the heart of every issue in this country” including the recent catastrophe in New Orleans. He quoted the adage that “desperate times call for desperate measures” and questioned whether the footage depicting African Americans looting really discerned whether the acts were done for survival (food, diapers) or was truly looting (for televisions, as an example).
In response to a question from the audience, Burton said he would return to Dragon*Con, but, next time, he is bringing his family.