Migratory immune cells use intracellular signaling networks to generate and orient spatially polarized responses to extracellular cues. The monomeric G protein Cdc42 is believed to play an important role in controlling the polarized responses, but it has been difficult to determine directly the consequences of localized Cdc42 activation within an immune cell. Here we used subcellular optogenetics to determine how Cdc42 activation at one side of a cell affects both cell behavior and dynamic molecular responses throughout the cell. We found that localized Cdc42 activation is sufficient to generate polarized signaling and directional cell migration. The optically activated region becomes the leading edge of the cell, with Cdc42 activating Rac and generating membrane protrusions driven by the actin cytoskeleton. Cdc42 also exerts long-range effects that cause myosin accumulation at the opposite side of the cell and actomyosin-mediated retraction of the cell rear. This process requires the RhoA-Activated kinase ROCK, suggesting that Cdc42 activation at one side of a cell triggers increased RhoA signaling at the opposite side. Our results demonstrate how dynamic, subcellular perturbation of an individual signaling protein can help to determine its role in controlling polarized cellular responses.