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I. King Jordan at ALDA

Posted Nov 04 2008 10:10am
Glancing through the ALDA program book, I came across a familiar name that was going to be giving a speech at a luncheon. I found myself wondering, "Who is I. King Jordan?" because I hadn't the faintest idea of what he has accomplished. With a little Googling here and there and chit chatting amongst others, I found out that he became the first deaf president of Gallaudeut University after a week long protest in 1988. I didn't know too much about him because I was only eight years old. I was more into running over my cabbage patch dolls and beating the old commodore 64's up. Plus, I wasn't into watching my non-captioned television.

Back in 1988, Gallaudet Board of Trustees Board of Trustees had three finalist for presidency position, two of them being deaf and I. King Jordan being one of the two. The Board of Trustees Board of Trustees announced that they picked a hearing person for presidency, a woman named Elisabeth Zinser. There was a member of the Board of Trustees name Jane Spilman that said something to the effect that, " Deaf people are unable to function in a hearing world." After years of oppression, the students, staff, alumni and faculty felt it was time for a deaf president. This started a week long protest called " Deaf President Now."

The first day, the campus marched from the University to the hotel where the Board of Trustees were holding they're meeting and demanded an explanation. This march continued to the White House then to Capital Hill and back to campus.

The second day, the protesters took steps to block access to the campus and the board members were presented with four demands that were promptly dismissed.

  1. Zinser must resign and a deaf president selected.
  2. Spilman must resign from the Board.
  3. The percentage of deaf members on the Board of Trustees must be increased to at least 51%.
  4. There must be no reprisals against any of the protesters.

The protesters marched back up to Capitol Hill and started to attract media attention.

The third day, campus was reopened but students boycotted classes. There was four members of the student body emerged as leaders of the protest. By now, the DPN Revolution was on every news channel and newspaper across the country.

The fourth day, Jordan, the four student leaders and Elizabeth Zinser had a meeting. The students encouraged Zinser to resign but she did not want to comply. There was a press conference held that day where I. King Jordan announced that he supported the Board of Trustees decision to pick Zinser as president.

The fifth day, Jordan retracted his support and Zinser resigned. The students protests and rallies intensified because only a half of one of the demands have been met.

The sixth day, nothing much happened apparently.

The seventh day all of their protesters demands were met.

  • I. King Jordan was named the first deaf president of Gallaudet University.
  • Spilman resigned from the board of trustees.
  • Phil Bravin, the only deaf member on the Board of Trustees was appointed Chair.
  • No reprisals to the students.
  • A task force was going to be created to ensure that there will be a 51% of the Board of Trustees will be deaf members.
Therefore, history was made. The students accomplished so much in so little time. It was time that someone that was one of them took over. Once I learned the history, I was really excited to listen to I. King Jordan give a speech while I was at the ALDA convention. He is late-deafened. He lost his hearing at 21 years old in a motorcycle accident. He talked about how technology has changed over the past twenty years. Back then, there was no closed captioning or no professional interpreter services. All we had available was basic email, pagers and TTY. Now we have options like interpreting, closed captioning, CART, PDA's and Blackberries, email attachment and text messaging, Captel, VRS (Video Relay Service) and VCO (Voice Carry Over). Times have truly changed.

He started talking about advocacy work since he is a full time advocate for the deaf and disabled. He left quite the lasting impression on me when he said that if you could reach to one person, help that person become a strong deaf individual. Being deaf can take a toll on a person especially when they have had perfect hearing at one point in their life. There is no reason why they have to face this alone.

He brought up the fact how cochlear implants are subject of sensitivity with the Deaf Culture. I know this first hand because a majority of the hateful discrimination that I get is from culturally Deaf people that feel that there is nothing wrong with them. I find nothing wrong with them either but they find an awful lot wrong with me because I chose to hear with a cochlear implant. He talked about how cochlear implants change the way communication happens because those of us with a cochlear implant listen and talk more then sign. He expressed that there should be a way to reconcile the different communication methods. This brings me to a profound quote that Jordan used to close his speech.

"Don't ever forget that a deaf person with an implant is a deaf person with an implant. You stay a deaf person but the technology helps you with your communication."


Jennifer, I. King Jordan and Myself.
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