How should Americans build connections across cultures, backgrounds and identities? No one is better able to answer that question than is distinguished scholar Ronald Takaki. With debate about borders and immigration swirling, his stories of the United States' "melting pot" history have never been more timely. He calls for Americans to unite with each other and the rest of the world. "By the year 2060 we will all be minorities," Takaki says.
"We can view this tremendous demographic transformation as the ‘disuniting of America' or as the opportunity to rethink the way we think about who we are as Americans and our nation's history. I am privileged to be at this juncture."
An internationally recognized scholar, Takaki was professor of Ethnic Studies at the University of California, Berkeley for more than 30 years. His course, Ethnic Studies 130, The Making of Multicultural America: A Comparative Historical Perspective, provided the conceptual framework for Berkeley's respected bachelor's and doctoral degree programs in comparative ethnic studies as well as for the university's multicultural requirement for graduation, known as the American Cultures Requirement.
Takaki's 11 books include significant titles. Iron Cages: Race and Culture in 19th Century America (1979) has been critically acclaimed. Strangers from a Different Shore: A History of Asian Americans (1989) was selected by the San Francisco Chronicle as one of the best 100 non-fiction books of the 20th century. A Different Mirror: A History of Multicultural America (1993) was chosen for an American Book Award and was hailed by Publishers Weekly as a "brilliant revisionist history of America that is likely to become a classic of multicultural studies." It is used in classrooms worldwide.
A passionate advocate for multiculturalism, Takaki debated Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., historian and social critic, at the opening plenary session of the 1997 conference on American Diversity and American Foreign Policy, sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations. Takaki has also debated Nathan Glazer, an American sociologist and former professor, four times since 1980. These intellectual exchanges were one of the reasons for Glazer's changed thinking announced in We Are All Multiculturalists Now. In 1997, Takaki participated in a White House meeting with President Bill Clinton to help brainstorm ideas for his major speech, "One America in the 21st Century: The President's Initiative on Race."
Takaki graduated from the College of Wooster in 1961 with a degree in history and received his Ph.D. in American history in 1967 from the University of California, Berkeley.