Tuesday, November 04, 2008

I. King Jordan at ALDA

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.


Sam said...

speech happens to be so true and it should be a very strong word of wisdom for those who wear CIs. You have been very fortunate to hear that, firsthand! Glad you had a good time and hope you caught up on all your sleep!

Alex said...

I have heard him before but didn't know all that!

Thanks for the info on him, and that is very impressive indeed to hear about.

Glad you got to meet him, looking great!


Anonymous said...

I still don't understand the extent of disaffection in Deaf circles. the choice a person makes to use a CI is surely not a disavowal of any other mode of being deaf. It is a choice, and just as we should celebrate and welcome the opportunity for those who choose to communicate through ASL/BSL, we should respect and understand the choice of late deafened people like us to use CIs. I know the fears and the concerns in the Deaf community, but surely the hostility you report has no place in a civilized world?

Shari said...

I did a research paper on a controversial subject and I chose CIs and Deaf Culture, so I was aware of the issues the Deaf have with it. I don't want to open a can of worms here so I'll leave it at that. All I can say is that I got an A for that arguemtive paper. :)

Sounds like you had a ball in the Windy CIty. :)

Jennifer Bruno Conde said...


I was introduced to my first deaf person in 1971 and have met and gotten to know MANY since. The saying, "There is more than one way to be deaf" often falls on deaf ears (pun intended) when it come to some members of the Deaf Community.

Just like in the hearing community, there are some open-minded, caring and sensitive members...and some stinkers who think that their viewpoint and way of life is the only right one.

I am so fortunate to know some really good deaf people both with and without CIs. You are certainly one of the good guys as is I. King Jordan. Thanks for sharing.

And little tolerance and acceptance goes a long way!


Anonymous said...

In your post you said that I. King is a full time Advocate for the Deaf and disabled.
All I know about Mr. Jordan is what I read on your Blog and what Jennifer has told me.
From what I've seen. You and Jennifer make a great advocacy team. Ya'll have impacted so many lives already. With your support and encouragement to others.
You and Jennifer both need to be commended and supported. For the work that ya'll have done and for the work I know ya'll will continue to do in the future.
Thanks for all that you do!

Unknown said...

That info about DPN is required learning for the Deaf Studies class that is required by all students at Gallaudet.

If you are interested in learning more about deaf history.. try googling..

Milan Conference of 1880 - when sign language was banned in favor of oralism

Martha's Vineyard Deaf -there was HUGE deaf community there

Abbé de L'Epée - The father of sign languge

Abbie said...


It was very refreshing to hear that coming from him. :) I'm all caught up on my sleep now but now I just need to get over this cold :)


I was in the same boat as you. It was great to stand along side of him :)

Mark from England,

In my opinion, it doesn't have a place in a civilized world. I understand their position of wanting to hold on to their sacred language for fear that it will diminish in the future but some shun those that want to be able to communicate with the world at large. It is a shame. I am all about choices but more so, I am about the person before their choice of communication first.


This is the type of thing I love to see - real down to earth common sense. :) Your words ring very true my dear :)


You have no idea how much Jen and I have reached out to people just by being ourselves. It is one of life greatest comforts when someone can say to you, "I've been there", and truly mean it. It is one of life greatest pleasures to see them sigh in relief when they know they are in good company. There is no greater feeling then advocating and helping someone. Thank you for your extremely kind words and all the support that you give Jen and I. We can only go to infinity and beyond from here :)


Thank you! I've heard of Martha Vineyard Deaf but I don't know much about it. Milan Conference, I'm lost. I knew about Abbé de L'Epée because I did research and I couldn't forget that name because well, hehe, similar to my own :) Thank you for that. I am going to research these. If you could share anything else such as a book deaf history that would be awesome Charlotte!